Sunday, October 14, 2012


How High Have We Gone? (11:1)

Meet the fellow who slept cross-wise on his bed since it provided the illusion that he had grown taller.


How High Have We Gone? (11:1)

Man had fallen so low that it no longer seemed possible for punishment to serve merely as a deterrent or a warning. What evil had the human race perpetrated that it was perceived as unredeemable and thus slated for destruction? According to the Torah, “The land was corrupted before G-d, and the land was filled with violence.”

The word used for violence, Chamas, is explained by Rashi to mean robbery. It was on this chaos that the flood descended, laying the world bare and ready for a new beginning.

If we read further on in this week's Biblical portion, it seems as if man had finally learned his lesson. The generation that built the Tower of Babel exemplified the opposite behavior. They organized a social system under which men suppressed all private interests for the common good.

Yet, if one but peruses the various commentaries, it becomes obvious that in their opinion, the children were in fact repeating the sins of their fathers. The only thing that changed was their methods, for now they were far more efficient.

In truth, the generation at Babel had no interest in reaching heaven and its values. Their intent was to keep heaven at bay.

Quoting Rashi once again we come across this comment, "After the flood, the people calculated that 1656 years had lapsed since the beginning of time till the Flood. As a result they declared that once every 1656 years the heavens crumbled and caused a catastrophe."

Imagine that! The Flood had occurred but once and already it was reduced to a natural phenomenon, one within man's power to foretell and forestall. Thus the verse describing their efforts, “Let us make a tower with its top to the heavens...  lest we be scattered,” suddenly makes sense.

Like the robbers and thieves of the generation prior to the Flood, they desired no moral interferences from Above. So while man had made enormous technical progress, there was no spiritual growth. This can be compared to the man who would sleep cross-wise on his bed since this gave him the pleasing illusion that he had grown taller. In reality, his stature remained the same; only his position was altered.

Today as we rocket to the stars and distant galaxies, it might be worthwhile to consider how much further we really have traveled.

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