This Shabbos we read Parshas Noach and the story of the flood. The Torah tells us that the Generation of Noah was full of sin. Our sages point to various sins alluded to in the Torah that this generation committed, among them illicit relations and idol worship. Nonetheless, the decree to have the flood was “signed” – the final reason that they were destroyed, we are told, was because there was Chamas – robbery. If they had sins on the level of the 3 cardinal sins of Judaism, why are we told that their final fate was decided because of stealing, and not because of these other sins?
A beautiful story is told of a bird who plucked a fish from the water to eat it. As the bird held his prize in his mouth, before he could swallow it, he heard the fish begging for its life, pleading for mercy. “Please don’t kill me, don’t destroy a creature that the Almighty has created.” As the fish was uttering these words, his mouth opened up, and a smaller fish that he himself had previously swallowed fell out of his mouth. The bird saw this and told him “look what a faker you are. You eat your fellow fish, yet you plead with me that it is not ethical and I should not eat you!!”
This idea applied to the generation of the flood. Many sins were held against the people of that time. However, the mercy of Hashem would have held off the punishment. When they stole from each other, and had no mercy upon one another, they lost the mercy they would have had from Hashem, and suffered the flood. This explains the expression that the decree was signed because of the sin of stealing.
This idea illustrates the beautiful concept – the way we treat others is exactly the way Hashem looks at us.