Even though the generation of the Mabul (flood) was guilty of the gravest sins, such as Avodah Zarah and murder, yet the Posuk points out that their fate was sealed because of their stealing. Hashem did not take action against them and punish them until they were found guilty of stealing.
What an important lesson this should teach us. Of all the terrible sins they did, it was stealing that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. From this one sees how terribly dangerous and frightful stealing is. Someone who steals is clearly proclaiming that he does not believe that Hashem has full control of what goes on in the world. A person who is truly convinced that Hashem is constantly watching him would certainly be afraid to steal. If we truly believe that Hashem decides exactly how much money each person will receive each year then we will realize that stealing is useless. After all, if a person is truly convinced that he can’t get even a penny more than Hashem has decided, then why bother stealing?
Even taking one single penny that isn’t yours is an open rebellion against Hashem and must be avoided like the plague. One must learn to be extremely careful and very honest and never take something that doesn’t belong to him. Even when the door is locked, the window shades are drawn closed and you’re sure that nobody sees and you’re sure that you’ll never be discovered, you must realize that Hashem sees all. The day will certainly come when we’ll be taken to task for every penny that’s not ours. No excuses or rationalizations will be accepted.
Perhaps you want to test yourself and see what you would do under the following circumstances:
You and your friends are going to an amusement park. The entrance fee is only $5 for boys under 12 and $15 for boys 12 and up. All your friends who are over 12 buy $5 tickets and get in easily. You look much smaller than they do and could easily get away with buying a $5 ticket. In fact, all you brought along was exactly $15. If you pay the $15 it will mean that you’ll have no money to buy soda, ice cream or the many other delicious kosher products they sell inside the amusement park. In fact, you forgot to bring lunch along, which means that you’ll have to starve all day. The temptation is great, isn’t it? Now be truthful with yourself: what would you do? Hard question to answer, isn’t it?
Did you ever put money into a soda machine, and out came a soda and your money back? What did you do? Or should I better not ask?
Just imagine that you, chas v’sholom, had a burglary in your house. Boruch Hashem, you have theft insurance and were very honest, only claiming for those things that were actually stolen. The insurance company pays your claim in full, and of course you are very happy. Months later, however, as you are searching through your drawers, you suddenly discover that the $2000 diamond ring that you thought had been stolen was actually only misplaced. Now, be totally honest and truthful with yourself: Would you send the $2000 back to the insurance company, which had already paid for the ring, or would you simply forget about the whole matter and leave things the way they are?
Now, let’s stop and think for a moment: What do you think Noach would have done? After all, everybody in his entire generation was corrupt, so why shouldn’t he be? Why should he act differently than everyone else? If it was okay for everyone else, then it should be okay for him as well!
After all, how many times do we rationalize and say, “But everyone else does it!” Luckily, Noach did not give a hoot what everybody else did. The only thing that mattered to him was if it was right or wrong in the eyes of Hashem. And that’s why Noach found favor in Hashem’s eyes.
No, it isn’t easy at all to live in a world full of corruption and act differently than anyone else. It’s not easy at all to be a Noach and follow in the true ways of Hashem, Yet this is what the Torah demands of each and every one of us. The best of excuses will do us absolutely no good on the Yom Hadin. This week’s Parsha should be a clear lesson for what happens to those who thought that the world was a “free for all,” and that they can get away with whatever they want to do!
Just recently there was an earthquake in India that killed many thousands of people. Last year there were floods that drowned many thousands. Nearly every day we hear of terrible disasters around the world. The Gemorah in Yevomous tells us that a Jew must take a lesson from the things he sees happening around him. Nothing happens without a reason. Even the Goyim are accountable for their seven Mitzvos.
Remember! The day will come when we will have to give an accounting for each and every one of our actions! One of the first questions we’ll be asked is – did you act honestly in your business? So we’d better have a good answer to this question!
The lesson of Parshas Noach is as appropriate today as it was thousands of years ago. Let’s keep in mind at every moment. Only the great fear of chas v’sholom doing an aveiroh will help us overcome our greatest temptations and desires.