Great Is Peace
Rabbi Frand on Parshas Noach
I saw the following insight on Parshas Noach written in the name of the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, of Blessed Memory.
We are all familiar with the story recorded at the end of the Parsha involving an attempt to build “a tower with its top in the heavens”. Society spoke a single language and had a common purpose. With single- minded dedication, this society attempted to build a brick and limestone structure that would allow them to “make a name” for themselves. Hashem descended, as it were, and “confused their language” such that they stopped building the tower and the project was abandoned.
The Torah records: “That is why it was called Bavel, because it was there that Hashem confused the language of the whole earth, and from there Hashem scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” [Bereshis 11:9]
Rashi asks: Which sin was greater – that of the Generation of the Flood or the Generation of the Dispersion? Off hand, we would say that the latter were worse. The people of the Generation of the Dispersion were heretics. They engaged in theological battle, waging war against the Almighty (by building a tower that would reach the heavens to go up and fight with Him). The Generation of the Flood engaged in theft, violence, and sexual immoralities — crimes of passion. However, they did not engage in heresy. They did not have the audacity to “wage war against the Almighty!”
And yet, the Generation of the Flood was totally destroyed while the people of the Generation of Dispersion were merely dispersed. Rashi explains that the unity that existed within the society of the Generation of Dispersion is what saved them. The Generation of the Flood was a totally dysfunctional society. They hated each other and stole from one another. The people of the Generation of Dispersion on the other hand, despite the fact that they were heretics, were unified. They loved one another. They spoke with one language and had common purpose! Rashi concludes: From here we see that disputes are hated and great is peace (Gadol haShalom).
Rav Weinberg asked a basic question on Rashi’s premise. How can Rashi say that love of fellow man and unity prevailed in the society of the Generation of the Dispersion? Rashi himself two pasukim [verses] earlier cites a Medrash that the people of this generation were more concerned about the loss of a brick than they were about the loss of human life! (One asks for a brick and the other brings lime, and the former stands over him and shatters his brain). Where is the love and friendship that Rashi in pasuk 9 claimed was pervasive in this society?
Apparently, any cooperation they manifested in the project of building the tower was a very superficial demonstration of “peace”. The Shalom was based on ulterior motives!
In a classic insight, Rav Weinberg stated that this teaches us that even if people have their differences or even hate eac h other, the mere fact that people work together is “shalom”. The mere fact that people can join together to work on a project and set aside their differences — superficial shalom — is also very meritorious. Even though the shalom may be short-lived, still, people working together is better than people working against one another. Even if Shalom is only skin-deep, if the people, for whatever reasons, come together: Gadol HaShalom – Great is Peace.
This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas Noach are provided below:
Tape # 027 – The Abortion Controversy
Tape # 069 – Ma’ariv and Mitzvos in the Land of Midnight Sun
Tape # 118 – Suicide: Is it Ever Permitted?
Tape # 165 – Euthanasia
Tape # 211 – Animal Experimentation
Tape # 255 – Preventing a Suicide
Tape # 301 – Teaching Torah to Non-Jews
Tape # 345 – Milah for Non-Jews: Is it Permitted
Tape # 389 – Abortion to Save a Baby?
Tape # 433 – Assisting in a Suicide
Tape # 477 – Tzedakah and Non-Jews
Tape # 521 – The Ben Noach & the Nectarine
Tape # 565 – The Golam
Tape # 609 – Cosmetic Surgery
Tape # 653 – The Har Habayis — The Temple Mount in Halacha and Hashkafa
Tape # 697 – The Case of the Fascinating Ger
Tape # 741 – Your Wife’s Medical Bills: Who Pays?
Tape # 785 – Spreading Bad News
Tape # 829 – Bending the Truth of the Torah
Tape # 873 – Stem Cell Research
Tape # 917 – Did Shimshon Commit Suicide?
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail email@example.com or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.
RavFrand, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.