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Derasha for Noach

10/24/2020 01:02:46 PM


Rabbi Dr. Howard Schwartz

which arise from trying to learn from the Tower of Babel episode.

Questions can certainly be asked about this, including what sin was being committed that led to G-ds responses.

Looking over the previous Parsha, we see that we have gone from a period in which there was a great deal of evil in the world,

leading to the wholesale destruction and the flood to “now” when there was to be a restart of the world.

The survivors of the flood, Noah and his family, and that is again just ONE family, along with the accompanying animals were to be agents of this restart.

The humans were likely to have been horrified by what they had just lived through and witnessed and were to set out avoid such awful trouble again.

In this time period, the people were, as described, of one language and perhaps also of one mind, becoming united in a common pursuit, to build a giant tower to the heavens.

To their credit, they had used their creativity to develop new technology, by which they could make bricks and mortar for this massive construction.
BUT, what was the purpose of the tower??

Was it to be a safe haven in the case of another flood our other such disaster?
Was it to be an ego-satisfying action, meaning to build something unique and everlasting, thus endowing them with enduring fame?
Were they trying to avoid the divisiveness of Cain and Abel, by being inclusive and cooperative?
OR, was their unity an effort towards commonality and even totalitarianism?

While we do not have a reliable flowing history, we do know that NIMROD, a grandson of Ham and great-grandson of Noah, comes on the scene.

In Genesis 10:8, he is described as the first man of might on the earth, and the first to found a great empire after the flood. In the Aggada the tower is called the house of Nimrod.

Genesis 10:8 suggests that he was a tyrant and that the tower was to be built to reach heaven and compete with G-d.!

So, the skills we humans were put to use were innovative and good, but the ultimate purposeful which they were developed was evil.!

Our Torah tells us that, while we and the animals are both only living finite creatures, we humans are each of us in some fashion unique;

with that being the case push towards conformity was in direct opposition to HaShem’s intent.

Rather than conformity, society needs non-conformity; original thinking, creativity, point-counterpoint discussion, and does NOT benefit by people being in lockstep with each other.

The Netziv, Rabbi YehudaTzvi Berlin, felt that the sin of the people involved in this event was that of “heavy-duty” conformity. The Netziv felt that where there is ONLY a certain orthodoxy.

shared by ALL members of the society, one has a potentially highly detrimental situation. One is better off with a pluralistic society wherein different views are embraced/ shared/ discussed.

We should strive to convince others to embrace our views, but not by violence/threats/ coercion. The Netziv felt that there is a real danger in becoming intoxicated by one's prowess, technological or otherwise.

THAT can lead to the belief that one has become like a god, and can try to develop their own miniature universe.

After the flood, [people of the next generations had a sense of vulnerability and of how fragile life can be. As a result, and out of fear of another calamity occurring ( as suggested by Rashi, Genesis,11:4),

they choose to build a tower, BUT, the development of an edifice complex really tries to deny one's vulnerability; and so it goes through the centuries!

Midrash Rabbah 38:1,6 suggests that the people then were warring with G-D and replacing G-D.It sounds familiar, does it not; Replacing G-d with science, or the state, a particular leader, a philosophy are examples; nazism, communism, and the like.

BUT denying one's vulnerability can be narcissistic and lead to isolation from what is real in the world. Loss of the ability to share, communicate with others can lead to even greater fear and isolation.

Belief in The Creator, G-d, relating with G-d via prayers, study, good deeds allows entrance into a community that gives meaning and purpose to life. While some outcomes can not be predicted or even understood, this is still a more positive way to live.

Realizing that we are not in ultimate control allows us to shed a false sense of power whereas a little humility, empathy for others, loss of complacency can lead to a better community for all.
Shabbat shalom

Howard J Schwartz

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782