Parshat No’ach 5782: The Delicate Balance Between Societal Priority and Individual Needs

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat HaShevua No’ach is being sponsored by Dov and Bracha Moses of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas for Dov’s Father, Avraham ben Chaim Mordechai, z”l, and also for a refuah shleima for Rachel bat Chaya Perel and Shmuel ben Rivka. To the Moses family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat No’ach 5782: The Delicate Balance Between Societal Priority and Individual Needs

by Moshe Burt

We open our Parshat No’ach vort in the generations which followed the Mabul, the flood which Hashem brought as response to man’s evolution toward sinfulness.

This vort begins with an excerpt from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha summary, as well as a context in his Sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” for Sefer Breish’t on our Parshat No’ach (pages 35 and 37):

Generations after the flood, mankind converges on the plane [noun: a flat or level surface] of Shinar and determines to build the Tower of Bavel [Migdal Bavel]. Hashem responds by confounding the language of all involved and man is dispersed across the face of the globe.

The second generation is punished through Divinely Decreed linguistic confusion. In response to the building of the Tower of Bavel, Hashem Creates a myriad of languages. The builders of the tower, unable to communicate with each other, disperse across the face of the earth. (Rabbi Goldin summarizing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posukim 1-9.)

Rabbi Goldin provides commentaries and perspectives regarding the contrast between the era leading up to the Mabul and the era of Migdal Bavel as well as discussion regarding emphasis on societal priority vs the individual in our Parshat No’ach (pages 37-41) (Please note here that the words placed between brackets [ ] indicate this author’s additions to Rabbi Goldin’s commentary meant to make the commentary meaningful in our current days.) :

The Torah cites violent theft as the crime that seals the fate of the generation of the flood. The sin of the generation of dispersion, however, is not clearly defined in the text. What was wrong with building the Tower of Bavel? Why did Hashem feel compelled to destroy this second society as well?

Granted free will, civilization, in its infancy, stumbles and falls. The Torah apparently details the initial tragic missteps of man in order to ensure that we learn from the errors of the two earliest societies whose story it records.

What societal lesson, then, is the Torah conveying through the… story of the… generation of the Tower of Bavel?

Many suggest that the tower was built as a direct attack upon Hashem’s authority. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 109a; Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posuk 1) Others maintain that the sin of the generation lay in their attempt to stay together in one place as one people instead of populating the world in fulfillment of Hashem’s command. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rabbeinu Bachya on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posuk 4; Ohr HaChaim on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posuk 1) …Others suggest that the people of the time were simply trying to protect themselves… “remember[ing] the flood of No’ach’s time with fear…. [believing that once every 1656 years, Hashem would again visit destruction upon the world [Rashi in Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posuk 1], [fearing] a calamity similar to the flood of No’ach’s era. According to this interpretation, the builders of the tower ignored the moral lessons of the flood. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah Breish’t 38:6; Rashi on on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posuk 1)

One Midrashic interpretation is particularly telling… “Seven levels were created to the tower from the East and seven to the West. The bricks were brought up from one direction while the descent was from the other. If a man fell down and died during… construction, no attention was paid to him at all. If one brick fell, however, all would sit down and weep: ‘Woe to us! When will we find another to take its place.'” (Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer 24)

This Midrash (based on hints in the text which describe the driving force behind creation of the tower as the desire to create a societal name) details a frightening civilization in which communal need takes total precedence over individual value. Those working on the tower of Bavel cared not at all about the lives of their neighbors. All that mattered was the creation of the tower and the society it represented.

The ultimate punishments inflicted by Hashem upon each of these generations perfectly fit their crimes. The generation of No’ach, which was marked by individual greed an corruption, could only be addressed through total destruction. None of the individuals, other than No’ach and his family, could remain. When it came to the builders of the Tower of Bavel, however, the problem was with the society, not the individuals. In this case, only the society is destroyed.

In each era, man struggles to strike a balance between two opposing forces, the needs of the individual and the needs of the community. Each of these forces, by definition, impinges upon the other. In order to maintain the rules necessary for communal governance, a society must, of necessity, place limits upon personal freedoms (one cannot, to cite the well-known example, scream fire in a crowded theatre with impunity [immune from punishment]). On the other hand, a society must limit the restrictions it places upon its citizens in order to allow for individual freedom of expression and action.

The difference between [what was] Communist Russia [, today’s Communist China, North Korea, etc] and the United States of America [as Olim Chadashim remember it pre-Biden/Harris and woke-ism] lay in the vastly different ways these… societies chose to strike this very balance.

How appropriate that Parshat No’ach ends with the introduction of Avraham Avinu and with the launching of the history of Judaism.

In the aftermath of the failures of both the generations of the flood and dispersion, a new society emerges: one that will successfully create a delicate balance between the needs of the community and the needs of the individual. This society, the nation of the Jews, guided by its Torah, is therefore destined to endure across the ages.

In our times, we are witnessing the coming dissolution of the United States of America as we remember it due to its emphasis on the collective — one size fits all, with the erosion of the balance with individual initiative, freedom of thought processes, the ability of citizens to “think outside the box” and to make their own independent decisions within the legal framework of America’s Constitution, Bill of Rights and the freedoms availed to citizens.

Is Israel of our times headed in the same direction? Does its government even comprehend the respective needs of society and of the individual, let alone able to balance national necessity with the needs of our individual citizenry in order to allow for individual freedom of expression and action?

May we daven, with unsurpassed intensity and unity, for an end to this and all pandemics and variants and that Hashem, our Creator see that we merit that no further such plagues afflict us!

May all who subscribe to these Parshat vorts and/or sponsor them live in happiness and good health to at least a full 120 years.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chodesh Tov and Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.