Learning Proper Behaviour from Noah, Generation of the Flood and the Tower of Babel

    January 2011            
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Noah, Righteous and Wholehearted in His Generation

By Avi Lazerson

The Torah describes Noah as a man who was righteous and wholehearted as it says in Genesis 6:9, These are the generations of Noah, “Noah was a righteous and wholehearted man in his generation, Noah walked with G-d.” We see that Noah got two positive descriptions here, “righteous and wholehearted”. Another question that could be asked is that later after G-d tells Noah that the world will be destroyed and that Noah and his family should come now into the ark, G-d says, “...for you I have found righteous before Me.” (7:1) Why is it that only righteous mentioned here and not wholehearted as in the previous verse? We must realize that if the Torah changes the words, and being that the Torah is exact, there must be some deep meaning for us.

Noah’s life actually spanned through two colossal disasters; he lived through the generation of the flood and later in his old age he lived through the generation that built the tower of Babel. There was a significant difference between the two generations. The generation that was destroyed by the flood sinned with their bodies. They were into every kind of sexual perversion and aberration that could possibly be conceived. Not only were they sexually corrupt but the animals in that generation followed the pattern of man and were also corrupt.

The generation of the Tower of Babel, on the other hand, were not corrupt with their bodies. Their sin was one of their mental outlook on life. The Torah teaches us that these people decided to build a city so fortified that they could live a life against the dictates of G-d. They sinned by rebelling against G-d, but they had friendship and unity between themselves.

Whose sin was greater? Rashi (11:9) points out that the generation of the flood robbed and stole one from the other and cared not about the other person. They were interested only in their own personal pleasures and comforts. They were totally depraved in their bodies, therefore they (their bodies) were totally destroyed.

The generation of the Tower of Babel had unity between themselves. Therefore G-d saw fit to destroy this unity by introducing seventy different languages. In this manner one group could not talk to the other and it broke up their unity, but they were not destroyed. This in spite of the fact that they desired to rebel against G-d!

Since the generation of the flood was totally corrupt, physically, sexually and morally yet Noah remained untainted he is called a righteous man in his generation. But in the generation of the Tower of Babel who also guarded themselves against moral and sexual corruption yet rebelled against G-d, Noah remained wholehearted towards G-d.

That is the reason that the Torah uses two adjectives to describe Noah, righteous and wholehearted, because he merited both adjectives due to his outstanding behavior. But we also learn something greater: Immoral and debased behavior has very serious consequences, whereas unity amongst people is a very desirable trait. May we, meaning each individual, merit proper moral behavior by avoiding debasing negative behavior and that we, as a nation, a Jewish nation, attain the ultimate positive trait, that of brotherhood and unity.


from the January 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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