Avrohom Leventhal
Avrohom Leventhal

The Straw That Broke Noach’s Camel

The Parsha in Chesed – Noach

Parshat Noach relates the incident of the mabul, the flood that destroyed the world. Only Noach, his wife Naama, their family and a representation of 2 or 7 of each species of animal, survived.

The decision to destroy His creation was not easy for G-d. The level of sin had reached a level that He could no longer “tolerate”.

There seems to have been 3 specific sins in which the generation of the flood “excelled”: idol worship, promiscuity and theft.

It is easy to understand G-d’s intolerance of idolatry and promiscuity. These sins are the antithesis of G-d’s intention of a world of holiness. Why would G-d wish to sustain a world full of those who rebel against the very goals of creation?

And yet, it was theft that sealed their fate. Not armed robbery or burglary. Petty theft. The generation of the flood gave themselves license to take “just a bit” from others. Something that the merchant or neighbor wouldn’t even notice or care about. Think in terms of just taking “one grape” or a few pennies from someone. Who will notice? In fact, that the acts of theft committed by the generation were too small to be prosecuted by law.

Was it really for this, above and beyond idol worship and promiscuity, that G-d decided to end humanity?

To understand this we must dig deeper into the basis for creation.

G-d is Holy and Pure and certainly desires us to emulate Him. If that was His only purpose, He need not create a world of imperfect mortals. The heavenly angels and other celestial beings are devoid of sin and spend their time in constant praise of G-d and sublime holiness. Such an entity predated mankind.

G-d wanted to make a world in which people could coexist while working together in elevating the mundane below to the levels of the world above.

For that He fashioned a material world with humans, animals and the infrastructure to create an earthly Garden of Eden that could mirror the one on high.

G-d understood that humans have weakness and might trespass His rules. When the transgressions, such as idolatry and promiscuity were against Him, although unhappy, G-d was able to “look the other way” and give a chance for return. He is a loving and forgiving Father who recognizes the weakness of the human.

When sins, as seemingly petty as they were, turned towards other people, and in such a sneaky manner, there was no more room for patience and tolerance. The world was created for us to get along, help and respect each other, not to look for ways in which to cheat or undermine our fellow human. When people gave themselves license to harm others, even in seemingly miniscule ways, the time had come for a “reboot” of creation.

Thus, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was not the transgressions against G-d but the deficiency in our relationship with others.

Noach and his family were the new beginning. They were the chance to make this world a better place, both in terms of our connection to G-d as well as to the others around us. Thus, they had a year in which they were to focus on the needs of others, including animals. The plan was that they should emerge from the flood with an appreciation for why it happened and how to prevent it from happening again.

Mankind was promised that the earth would never again be destroyed. And thank G-d, He has kept His part of the agreement.

It is upon us to honor our side with the commitment to try to make this world a better place. The way to do this is through increasing holiness and kindness. The balance of a strong relationship with G-d and an equal connection to others. We must constantly examine our own actions to see whether we, even unwittingly, infringe on others in even a petty way. Do we dismiss the aggravation caused by inconsiderate driving or cutting in line at the supermarket? Are we as careful and respectful with the property of someone else as we are with our own? While thesesuch infractions might be “unpunishable” in the laws of man, they may very well be abhorrent in the Eyes of G-d. One can only imagine the heavenly reaction to the defense of “it’s just business” when trying to justify dishonesty.

Rather than looking to see how we can take from others let us seek ways in which to give.

G-d gave (and constantly gives) humanity a second chance. Let’s show Him, through our kindness and consideration that we are worthy of His.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal, noted educator and speaker, is the Executive Director at Lema'an Achai.
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