D’var Torah: The Example of Noah – Peer Pressure and Values
Here’s the big debate: Was Noah truly great or just relatively great? The line in question is: “Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with God.” The commentators have focused their arguments on the comment that Noah was blameless for his era. You could read this to mean that he was only comparatively great. That is, in his time there were only evil people and he looked great when compared to them. Or you could say that he was especially great because he rose above the pervasive peer pressure of his time.
As a camp director, I see peer pressure at work all the time – for good and for bad. How do we get our children to follow our values when they invariably will be influenced by their friends? First, put them, and yourselves, in communities with many people with similar values. Ramah uses positive peer pressure to develop a love of Judaism. A great example is the song sessions on Friday night that are led by our oldest campers. The younger campers think these kids are the coolest and want to grow up to be just like them. They get into Shabbat singing mainly because of the older kids’ example. Second, talk to your kids about your values. I have found that kids hear a lot of what we say. If we talk to them about our values around the dinner table, over the course of time our views do sink in. I think sometimes we, as parents, are afraid to voice our opinions for fear of alienating our kids (especially teenagers). The truth is that most of them do want to know what we believe.
I lean towards thinking that Noah was especially great because he “walked with God” in a society that clearly did not. He rose above his surroundings and did the right thing. Around the Shabbat dinner table is a wonderful time to discuss Noah and the values that you believe in. Shabbat Shalom.