In this week’s parasha, Parashat Noach, Hashem floods the entire world, destroying all life except for the inhabitants of Noach’s ark and the fish. But the Talmud doesn’t understand why: “I can understand why the people were destroyed, they can sin; but why the animals?”
The Beit Halevi explains that what we do influences our surroundings. Not only our public behavior, which others can see; but even what we do when no one is watching. If we commit a particular sin, G-d forbid, it strengthens the force of that sin in the world, pushing people and animals alike one step closer to following in our footsteps. Even though this is a metaphysical concept that is difficult to understand, we all sense it when we walk into a new place and feel an instant gravitational pull toward committing the same nonsense as the locals, no matter how illogical or repulsive what they are doing is.
My Rabbi R’ Moshe Zev Katzenstein, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshivah Gedolah of the Five Towns, once explained to us that today, the secular world has the same characteristics as it did in the time of Noach. By just taking a simple walk outside we are negatively impacted by what we see and what we don’t see. It is incumbent upon every individual to make their own personal Ark, to find a community of people dedicating to Torah and Mitzvoth, people that can shield each other from the raging waters of paganism that seek to destroy us at every street corner and website advertisement. May we all merit surviving the flood.