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Building A Better World

Parashat Noach(Gen. 6:9 –11:32) describes a rampant, senseless "hamas" (violence) that threatens to destroy the world and how HaShem purifies the planet with the Mabbul, a flood of boiling subterranean waters and torrential rains that comes 1656 years after the birth of Adam. But we learn that God found Noach worthy and spared his family, instructing him to build the Tevah (ark). When we read, “For in seven days’ time I will make it rain upon the earth," Rashi reveals that it is a reference to the seven days of mourning for Methuselah, the ancestor of Noach. Methuselah’s name was a prophecy that, 7 days after his passing, judgement would bring the Mabbul.


After the Tevah rests on the mountains of Ararat, the 7 colors of the rainbow appear as a sign of the brit, a covenant God made with Noach and all his descendants, teaching the precepts that prohibit idolatry, blasphemy, murder, sexual immorality, theft and eating the limb of a living animal, as well as the command to establish courts of justice. Prior to the Mabbul, a thick cloudy canopy covered the earth, preventing direct sunlight. J. Immanuel Schochet writes that, just as those clouds became refined and allowed the light of the sun, the world will eventually attain refinement with the coming of Moshiach.


Three hundred forty years later, the lesson of the Flood was ignored when Nimrod, a charismatic political tyrant, united the nations to replace God with a city and tower of their own making. Nimrod is called "mighty" three times in this Torah portion, reflecting the three agendas that fueled the building of the massive Tower of Bavel:

To prevent their dispersion, to reach the heavens and attack God and to make a name for themselves.


Why would the masses submit themselves to someone like Nimrod?


In his commentary on Nimrod, Rabbi Raphael Samson Hirsch (who lived in the 1800s) offers this explanation and warning : “This occurs particularly in nations where the citizens are busily preoccupied with themselves. People who pursue comfort and wealth and ignore the idealistic interests of their community are ready to sacrifice their rights and assets—so long as they are excused from thinking.”


God destroyed their tower, burning one third, toppling another third and the last third was swallowed by the earth. Prior to the destruction, the builders were of one "speech", though they had a language in common, the word the Torah uses is not lashon but Genesis 11:1, it states, "Now the whole earth had one language and the same words." The Hebrew word used for "language" is safa, which denotes limitation. This demonstrates a humanistic desire to thrive without the direction of the Creator but, in doing so they were prevented from reaching their potential. It's been said that the majority of Nobel Prize winners are religious. And because they believe in the infinite, invisible God, they inhabit a realm of thought that reflects a unlimited outlook in their goals.


After this, the patriarch Avraham is introduced to us. He is a man of blazing intellect and solid morals who does not seek fame but only strives to raise up the name of the Creator, yet honors Avraham. In the Tanakh his name appears 175 times--the same number of years he lived. Adn it will be his descendants who raise up, not a tower, but a House of Prayer for all nations.

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