This week we read about the greatest apocalypse the world experienced, the great flood of Noach that occurred 1656 years after the world was created.
What triggered such a disaster? The Torah tells us that the inhabitants of the world became severely immoral. However, it was the rampant stealing which made G-d decide to destroy all living beings with the exception of Noach and his family.
Toward the end of the Parsha, the Torah speaks of an incident of the Tower of Bavel. There are various opinions regarding the intent behind this massive towering project. Some say they reasoned that every so often the world would naturally flood itself so they built a series of towers which they believed would support the heavens from producing a flood. And some say they were planning to build a literal skyscraper to wage war against G-d.
The common thread between the reasons is that they denied G-d’s power in running the world and they rebelled against G-d, which is tantamount to idolatry, which G-d abhors.
If we were to weigh the severity of the sins of the generation of the flood, primarily stealing, against the sin of the Tower of Bavel, idolatry, we would probably say that the sin of idolatry is worse and G-d’s response would have been more severe.
Yet Rashi points out that we see the opposite. The generation of the flood was totally wiped out, while the generation of the Tower of Bavel was spared. G-d just mixed up their languages which prevented them from communicating with each other which stymied their project.
Rashi explains: G-d destroyed the generation of Noach because they did not respect the property and belongings of others, which means that Shalom – peace – did not exist between them. G-d said, “If there is no Shalom and only strife in the world, My world cannot exist.” He therefore brought upon the flood.
The generation of the Tower of Bavel was spared because, although they fought against G-d and His existence, they still exhibited the quality of Shalom and love between themselves.
Rashi concludes: We learn from this how G-d abhors discord and fighting, and loves Shalom!
The Noverminsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaacov Perlow o.b.m. cites an early commentator, The Ran, who differentiates between character traits and philosophies.
Character traits are hereditary, while philosophies can be changed.
The Ran gives an example: When our forefather Avraham commissioned Eliezer, his slave, to find a wife for his son Yitzchok, Avraham was insistent that he go to his family, despite the fact that they were idol worshipers. This was because they possessed good character traits; as we see, Lavan invited Eliezer into his home. Good character was part of their essence. However, although they had erroneous philosophies, Avraham knew that these can be re-taught and acquired.
With this in mind, The Ran explains that the generation of the flood were completely corrupted in their character and such flaws would have been passed on for all generations. G-d therefore wiped them out.
However, the generation of the Tower of Bavel were not immoral nor were their characters flawed. To the contrary, they were united in friendship. Their problem was their philosophies and ideologies. They did not need to be destroyed because a deficiency in belief in G-d and His ways, needs re-education, clarity and a change in one’s perspective.
All will agree that there has been a tremendous amount of discord and disunity in Israel in the past few months.
Unfortunately, it took a tragedy of these proportions to shake us up and enable us to recalibrate and recognize the true essence of our being. We are all the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov, and our holy matriarchs, who instilled within us core values of Middos – good character traits. This infusion of good Middos fosters within us a yearning for Shalom which at times may be dormant. However, it is immediately revived and shines within every Jew at challenging times like this.
It is interesting that during the entire year that Noach and his family were on the Ark, they were busy 24/7 feeding and caring for the animals.
King David in Psalms 89 tells us, Olam Chesed Yibaneh – the world was created with the virtues of Chesed.
As the last link to humanity, Noach and his family needed to be involved with continuous Chesed which was manifest with caring for and sustaining the animals to keep the world alive and going.
May the Chesed that we all do, and is being done by Klal Yisroel, along with the Tefilos – prayers that are being recited, and the Shalom that is felt, along with the Torah that is being learned and the Mitzvos we are performing during this war, impel Hashem to bring a speedy victory, with healing, salvation, consolation, and freedom for all who are captured. And may this herald our redemption!