This week’s Torah portion is all about Noah, the only righteous person in his generation. He follows God’s command to build a huge ark before an impending flood, and then to gather and save the animals on the earth; they come onboard two by two, and he guards them throughout the high waters.
In the beginning of the parshah, Noah is told to bring onto the ark seven couples, 14 in total, of the pure sacrificial animals; and one couple, two in total, of the impure non-sacrificial animals.
In addition to 14 of the holy animals and two of the unholy ones, there were also eight humans: Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. Eight is precisely the average of two and 14. People are right in the middle, between the holy and the unholy.
Why is that? Shouldn’t people be inherently more holy than animals? People are created in the “image of God.” People are great! People are meant to lord over everything, second only to God.
But people had shown over time that they were not at that level. In Noah’s generation, the people around him had proved not as amazing as they would seem at first glance. People are in the middle, between holy and unholy.
People have to put in the effort to go the extra mile, and to work to do the right thing, whatever that may be. Sometimes, those around us don’t do the right thing, similar to what Noah experienced. But Noah didn’t do what the others were doing; he was willing to be the one good person.
We, in our daily lives, have to do the same thing.
Everyone starts out in between the holy and the unholy. Everyone starts at eight, and can move to two or to 14. You start out with the path blazed ahead, but this fades until you have to make your own decisions. When that time comes, make the choice to do the right thing over the easy thing, even if it takes a lot of time, effort and energy to do so.
It is crucial to stand up for what you believe in and act to help change the world for the better in everything you do. This is how each of us, like Noah, can become a holy person.
Noah Sunshine is an eighth-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School in Pikesville, Md.