In Parshat Noach we can learn a lot on how we should behave based on the actions of a few different characters in the story. Let’s start with Noach. Noach is commanded to build an ark and take himself, his family, and two of every kind of animal on the ark with him to be saved. Meanwhile, while they are all safe on the ark, Hashem told Noach that he will bring a massive flood and destroy the whole world because they had been sinning so much.
We learn from the Parsha that Noach was considered a Tzadik “in his generation”, which can be interpreted in two very different ways. Either he is only considered a Tzadik because the rest of his generation was so bad that in comparison he is considered a Tzadik, or the words “in his generation” add emphasis to how great he truly was. I prefer the latter interpretation because of the following reason. Noach built the arc without even fully believing that Hashem would really cause a flood. Noach was such a Tzadik that he saw all the good in people, and really believed that they would take to his words and do Teshuva by the time Hashem brought the flood (many years later). He thought that, because of their Teshuva, Hashem would decide to no longer destroy the whole world.
We should all learn from Noach in his positive outlook on the world. It is very easy to get caught up in ourselves and forget other people. It is also extremely easy to lose faith in others. We should never put ourselves on a pedestal above our peers and think that we are better than they are. We should be like Noach and trust that we are all able to be saved if we only try. In addition, something for everyone to constantly be working on is our relationship with Hashem. I can only wish to get to the level one day where I can be as strong as Noach was. Noach continued to do what Hashem asked of him even though he was ridiculed by everyone around him for being a lunatic. Having this level of faith and devotion in Hashem should be a goal for us all.
Next in the Parsha we see Noach and his three sons interacting. Noach gets very drunk off of his vineyard and undresses himself. His youngest son, Cham, finds him naked and goes to find his brothers. Noach’s other sons (and Cham’s brothers), Yafet and Shem, take a very different approach. Instead of working to embarrass their father or use his drunkenness to their advantage like Cham did, Shem and Yafet do the exact opposite. They take his clothes and block their view of their immodest father. The Torah uses the supposedly extra words to clarify that the sons even turned their backs to him and walked backwards as they held up the clothes. This extra effort that they went through shows that they truly respected their father and only wanted to help him. They had no intention to do anything malicious like their brother.
We should all learn from their ways. We should take every effort to never embarrass someone for their actions. When we see someone down, instead of attempting to find a way to benefit from their mistake, we should ignore the fact that they made a mistake and do everything that we can to help them.
Student studying in Machon Maayan