Parshas Noach – The Centrality of Peace

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Noach, we learn of two different societies and generations: the Dor Ha’Mabul, generation of the deluge, and Dor Ha’flaga, generation of disunion and dispersion. 

The Dor Ha’Mabul were a sinful people, washed away by the great flood waters.  Only Noach, his wife Na’ama (Rashi, Bereishis 4:22), their sons and daughters-in-law were saved on the great Ark that Noach built, along with the animals in the Ark.  What were the sins of this generation? 

וַתִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ, and the earth was corrupt before G-d, וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ, חָמָס, and the earth was full of robbery (Bereishis 6:11).  Rashi (ibid) explains their sins as follows: וַתִּשָּׁחֵת, corrupt, is a term that denotes ervah, immorality, and avodah zarah, idolatry.  חָמָס is a term that indicates sins of gezel, robbery. 

Of these three sins – immorality, idolatry and robbery – which was the one that sealed their fate and condemned them to death? 

And G-d said to Noach: קֵץ כָּל-בָּשָׂר בָּא לְפָנַי–כִּי-מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ חָמָס, מִפְּנֵיהֶם; וְהִנְנִי מַשְׁחִיתָם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, the end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them, and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth (6:13).  Rashi (ibid) teaches: לֹא נֶחְתַּם גְּזַר דִּינָם אֶלָּא עַל הַגֶּזֶל – their sentence was not sealed, except on the account of robbery.  I.e.: for sins of robbery, their fate was sealed! 

And what of the sins of Dor Ha’flaga, the generation of disunion?  This was the generation that built the Tower of Bavel, thinking they could reach the heavens, ki’vi’yachol (as if it were possible), and rebel against G-d. וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶה-לָּנוּ עִיר, וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם, וְנַעֲשֶׂה-לָּנוּ, שֵׁם  פֶּן-נָפוּץ, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ – And they said: Come let us build a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed across the whole earth (Bereishis 11:4).  Rashi teaches: פֶּן-נָפוּץ – lest we be dispersed: שֶׁלֹּא יָבִיא עָלֵינוּ שׁוּם מַכָּה לַהֲפִיצֵנוּ מִכָּאן – that He should not bring upon us any blow, to disperse us from here

And so, the tower was destroyed, their one language of unity was mixed up, and the people were dispersed over the face of the whole earth (Bereishis 11:1-9).  This place became known as Bavel, for there Hashem confused, בָּלַ֥ל, the language of the whole earth, and from there Hashem scattered them over the face of the earth (v.9). 

Two generations of wickedness, two societies punished and destroyed.  Which was worse?Rashi (11:9) famously teaches a lesson which needs to be taught and re-taught.   

Which was worse, asks Rashi: the sins of the generation of the flood or the sins of the generation of dispersion?  These – the generation of the flood – did not send forth their hand against that which is fundamental, i.e.: they rebelled and sinned against fellow man – robbery sealed their fate – but they did not rebel directly against G-d!  And these, the generation of the Tower of Bavel, sent forth their hand against the Fundamental, i.e.: they rejected the Truth of G-d and attempted to wage war against Him, ki’vi’yachol

Yet these (the generation of the flood) were washed away, while these (the generation of dispersion) were not obliterated from the world.  It appears, then, that the sins of the generation of the flood were more severe. 

Concludes Rashi: אֶלָּא שֶׁדּוֹר הַמַּבּוּל הָיוּגַּזְלָנִים וְהָיְתָה מְרִיבָה בֵינֵיהֶם, לְכָךְ נֶאֱבְדוּ; וְאֵלּוּ הָיוּ נוֹהֲגִים אַהֲבָה וְרֵעוּת בֵּינֵיהֶם… לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁשָּׂנְאוּי הַמַּחֲלֹקֶת וְגָדוֹל הַשָּׁלֹוםThe generation of the flood were robbers, and there was quarrel and strife between them, therefore they were obliterated.  But the generation of dispersion behaved with love and friendship between them (even though they thought they could rebel against G-d).  Thus, you have learned that conflict and strife is hateful and peace is great

In a world full of immorality, foreign and strange worship and robbery, and a world full of quarrel and strife R”L, we would do well to learn and re-learn these words of Rashi, and strive, as best as possible, to integrate this lesson into our daily lives.  Perhaps, only through the quest for peace, and the implementation of lasting and sincere shalom bein adam l’chavairo (peace between man and fellow man), will we merit to be saved from the proverbial flood waters that inundate the world around us. 

Yeshiva Kol Yaakov, named for Rav Yaakov Ades zt’l, was started with the support and backing of Ha’Rav Ovadia Yosef zt’l.  Ha’Rav Ovadia attended R’ Ades’ shiur in Porat Yosef, and the two became very close.  With appreciation for the influence R’ Ades had on his life, Ha’Rav Ovadia committed himself to the yeshiva, named for his mentor.  He helped raise funds for the yeshiva many times over the years, and from time to time, he would deliver shiur at the yeshiva. 

“Kol Yaakov is unique in that it is non-denominational, with Sephardim and Ashkenazim learning alongside one another.  It is said that when R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky zt’l visited Eretz Yisrael in his old age, he turned down many invitations to deliver shiurim, accepting only one: that of R’ Yehuda Ades, Rosh Yeshiva of Kol Yaakov.  When someone asked him why he agreed to speak at that particular yeshiva, he explained that he wanted to see the yeshiva that didn’t differentiate between sectors of the Jewish community and accepted any student who wanted to learn Torah.  He added that Kol Yaakov would probably merit the first visit from Mashiah because of its ahdut” (Maran HaRav Ovadia, Artscroll, p.98).

How hateful is strife and how great is peace… Perhaps when we live lives of shalom with our fellow Jews, we will merit that Hashem, Whose Name is Shalom, will return to Yerushalayim, the city of Shalom.  במדרש, גדול השלום שכשמלך המשיח יבא אינו פותח אלא בשלום – Chazal teach, how great is peace, for when Moshiach comes, he will open only with peace (Tosfos Y”T to Uktzin 3:12). 

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,

Michal

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