This week’s Torah portion is “Noah” (Genesis 6:9-11:32) and it is one of my favorites. This is not only because my middle name is Noah, but because the portion is filled with important stories whose messages are just as important today as they were then.
The first story in this week’s Torah portion is, of course, the story of Noah and the flood. Indeed, there is hardly a religion in history that does not include some kind of account of a flood that destroyed the world. From the ancient Greeks to Christianity and Islam, all faiths and cultures seem to acknowledge that God sent a flood to destroy the world.
For the Jewish people, however, the story of Noah, or better known as the story of “Noah’s Ark” is far more than just bedtime reading. It’s not a legend, nor simply source material for painting colorful and pretty pictures of many animals on a boat, but rather, it is the LIVING Torah.
When God created the world (which was the subject of last week’s Torah portion, the portion of “Bereishit”) He wanted mankind to rule it and lead it. Can you imagine? God Almighty created a ‘business’, so to speak, and put you and me in charge of it!! What an awesome responsibility! Unfortunately, however, mankind blew it. The people of the day did not show the responsibility and leadership that God expected of them (us!). Things went ‘bezerk’. Honestly, justice, kindness went out the window. Chaos and anarchy reigned supreme. God had enough and wanted to start again. The flood was on its way.
There was one man, however, who was able to keep away from the “riffraff”. A man who managed to keep away from the harmful influences of society. A man who walked with God while everyone around him indulged in theft and every form of evil and corruption imaginable. A man who remained righteous come what may. That man was Noah. Noah was spared and was the one who began the world anew.
The second story in this week’s reading is the Tower of Babel. We are told that the people of Babylon built a tower in order to wage a war against God. They wanted to climb up to God to “give Him a piece of their mind”, so to speak. Can you imagine?! They wanted to rebel against God?! And they even had the audacity to go up and attempt to take him on “face to face”.
But here’s the really big question that many of the commentators grapple with: In same Torah portion, we read about the corruption of mankind. Their punishment was the flood that came and annihilated them. Regarding the builders of the tower, however, their punishment was merely to be dispersed and exiled one from another! Why is it that the former were killed, while the latter –who intended to rebel against God—were spared and merely dispersed?
Our sages teach us that the answer is simple: unity. Of course God hates evil, crime, corruption, and even rebellion. But the people of the tower were united! They worked together. They respected one another. They shared. They had one goal. That is the power of unity my fiends. Unity is so beloved before God that He is willing to forgo harsh punishment, even when harsh punishment is truly deserved. He wants us to get along. He wants us to respect each other.
…..And what better organization to be a part of that represents this type of unity than UNITED with Israel?
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel