Parshat Noach

Torah Reading for Week of October 26-November 1, 2008

“Peer Pressure”

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel
AJRCA Professor of Talmud

In Parshat Noach we read, “Noah was a righteous man in his generation.” Why is Noah described as a “righteous manĀ in his generation“? Would it not have sufficed to simply tell us “Noah was a righteous man”? Why the emphasis on “his generation”? There must have been something about “his generation” that warrants emphasis.

What do we know about “his generation”? The Torah describes it very clearly:“God saw that man’s wickedness on earth was increasing. Every impulse of his innermost thought was only for evil, all day long. The world was corrupt before God, and the land was filled with crime. All flesh had perverted its way on earth.” Rashi explains “corruption” as “decadence, destruction, damage, sexual immorality and idolatry.” The “crime” that filled the land included robbery, physical violence, oppression, cruelty and inhumane behavior. The idea of moral behavior had ceased to even be an option, and anybody who even attempted to discuss “right vs. wrong” was deemed “an outsider.”

Amidst this sea of corruption and moral decadence, where “God regretted that He had made man on earth,” the Torah tells us “Noah found favor in God’s eyes.” Why did Noah (which means “comfort”) bring comfort to God? Because as opposed to the rest of mankind, about whom God was “pained to his very core,” Noah dared to be different.

Who was Noah? He was the kid in the playground who walked away from a fight. He was the teenager who went to a party and refused sex, drugs, and alcohol. He was the father who spent more time with his kids, even at the expense of “going out drinking and playing poker with the boys.” He was the businessman who rejected corrupt business deals, never cheated on his taxes, and preferred honesty over profit.

It’s not easy being Noah. It’s a lot easier to give in to peer pressure and “go with the flow,” because “everyone else is doing it.” In Noah’s generation, everyone except Noah was “doing it.” Noah was the only one to survive.

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