There are physical and spiritual laws governing the world, and the following passage alludes to the violation of laws which brought on the destruction of the great flood:
"And the earth had become corrupt before the Just One; and the earth had become filled with injustice. And the Just One saw the earth and behold it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. The Just One said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with injustice through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth." (Genesis 6:11-13).
"And the earth had become corrupt" - This refers to sexual immorality and idolatry (Rashi).
"And the earth had become filled with injustice" – This refers to robbery (Rashi).
"The end of flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with injustice through them" - Their sentence was sealed on account of robbery (Rashi). Rashi's explanation is based on the Talmud which teaches that although the people were also guilty of sexual immorality and other sins, their decree was sealed because of robbery (Sanhedrin 108b).
The above teachings indicate that widespread robbery was the sin which brought on the final decree. In order to understand this on a deeper level, I am sharing with you the following insight from the ArtScroll Overview to the Torah portion about Noah:
The flood was precipitated by robbery – a sin which reveals that the human beings of that era were selfish beings that were concerned with themselves at the expense of others. To save earthly life by means of an ark and miraculous salvation from the ravages of the Flood would hardly have sufficed if the sin that finally caused the Flood had remained totally unredeemed. Therefore the ark had to be more than just a protection against the raging elements without; it had to enclose within a disparate collection of many creatures cared for by Noah and his family. Life in the ark imposed an awesome regimen of selflessness that did not allow a free moment for self-indulgence. As a result, Noah and his helpers became truly human.
In an earlier era, Cain had asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Noah answered, "Yes, I am the keeper of everyone, from human being to gnat, from docile lamb to voracious lion."
Before the great flood, human beings experienced long and prosperous lives; in fact, they enjoyed a healthy vegetarian diet. The good life, however, spoiled them, and they began to view everything and everyone as objects for their self-gratification. The ark therefore had to serve as a spiritual school which would help human beings regain the consciousness that they are created in the image of the Giving One.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
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