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A PROMISE IS A PROMISE

by Jonathan Fisher    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Studying the nature of Man from the beginning of the Torah gives us the unique opportunity to evaluate the attributes of all Mankind rather than just one community.

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Studying the nature of Man from the beginning of the Torah gives us the unique opportunity to evaluate the attributes of all Mankind rather than just one community. We also have the chance to see how Hashem deals with His creations as a whole, and how the attributes of people and their relationship with Hashem change over time.

When Man was first created, he was on an extremely high spiritual level. Mankind was given permission to eat plants and fruits, but not other living creatures. At that time, he had no desire to eat animals due to his closeness to Hashem and his compassion for all living beings. As time past, Man began to distance himself from the Almighty, and with each passing generation Manís holiness abated. The people became immoral. They practiced thievery and sexual immorality, and some commentaries say that they began to eat animals as well as each other. They felt no boundaries.

After Hashem destroys almost every living creature in this weekís Torah portion, He seems to commit Himself to an unconditional act of kindness which sounds extremely demanding to fulfill. G-d declares, "Never again will I curse the ground because of Man, for the inclination of Manís heart is evil from his youth; never again will I smite every living creature, as I have done" (Genesis 8:21). The world cannot exist if all of its inhabitants are evil. Stating that the world will never again be destroyed means that never again will the entire human race turn to evil, even though that tendency is in Manís nature. How can Hashem assure that Man will never again become sinful? Look how corrupt they grew after only ten generations, imagine what could happen after 50 or 100 generations!

The only way for Hashem to keep His promise is to either change the nature of Man or somehow prevent them from all turning corrupt. Hashem chooses the latter approach, because if He would change the nature of Mankind then He would have, in effect, destroyed the entire world and started over. Hashem starts the prevention process immediately after Noah and his family get off the ark. They are given the Seven Noahide Laws, and they are now permitted to eat animals. This allowance to eat any animal is to show Mankind that He is on a higher spiritual level than the animals and should act accordingly.

The other preventive measure to assure that the entire world does not become corrupt comes at the end of the Torah portion. The people of the world decide to build a city and a tower, in order to keep all of civilization together, as it says, "lest we become scattered across the whole earth" (ibid. 11:4). According to many commentaries, there was nothing wrong with this act in and of itself. In fact it seems very positive, for by remaining together in one place the people can unify to accomplish everything that they want. This society was a potential utopia -- no controversies, no fighting, no difference of opinion. Their remaining together seemed like the optimal situation for Mankind.

However, although they had the potential to do the greatest good, they also had the chance to focus all their energies on the greatest of evils. If, by chance, that society became completely sinful, that would mean the entire human race would be sinful together, and the Almighty would be left with no choice but to bring destruction to the world. That is why Hashem needed to separate these people. He divided them in both language and location, not as a punishment, but rather as a kindness and a preemptive measure in order to keep His promise that the world would never again have to be destroyed.

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Jonathan Fisher a graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta and Yeshiva University, writes from Israel.

You are invited to read more Parshat Noach articles.

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