Editors’ note: The following article was originally published in Volume 15 of Kol Torah in 2005/5766. To read more Parashah and Halachah articles from previous editions of Kol Torah, please visit koltorah.org.
In the first Pasuk of Parashat Noach (6:9), Noach’s name is mentioned three times. This is due to the three Midot Tovot attributed to Noach: (1) He was a Tzadik, (2) a Tam, and (3) a Mit’haleich Et HaElokim. Many of the events in Noach’s life also revolve around the number three – he had three sons, and he saw three different worlds in his lifetime: The world before the flood, the world destroyed during the flood, and a new world created after the waters receded. Later in Tanach, Daniel also saw three worlds during his lifetime. He saw the world during Bayit Rishon, after the destruction of Bayit Rishon, and during Bayit Sheini.
Why does Rashi have to say that there is a doubt whether Noach would have been considered a Tzaddik had he lived at the same time as Avraham? Why make Noach out to be a questionable Tzaddik? We can learn from this that a person has to make a name for himself in his generation, notwithstanding the circumstances. No excuses! We must try to make an impact on our generation and to rise above its challenges and conquer them.
Later in Parashat Noach, the Torah tells us of two generations of sinners, The Dor HaMabul (the generation of the flood), and the Dor HaFelagah (the generation of division). The Dor HaMabul lost its fear in Hashem.They partook in all types of immoral and destructive activity, as the Torah states, “VaTimalei HaAretz Chamas,” “The Earth was filled with robbery” (6:11).In short, the Dor HaMabul is described as a very wicked generation. Yet, the Dor HaFelagah is even worse; they lost their morals to an even greater degree, rebelling directly against Hashem’s authority. They attempted to build a tower, go up to Heaven, and conquer the heavens (BeReishit Rabbah 38:7). This is defiance at its pinnacle.
Which Dor was inferior? The Dor HaMabul lost its fear of Hashem, and its Bein Adam LaChaveiro skills were very lacking. One might think that the Dor HaFelagah’s violation (not fearing Hashem’s authority) was worse, but quite the opposite is true. Hashem needs us to think of our fellow men first. He can forgive, to a certain degree, defiance of His authority. For this reason, the punishment for the Dor HaMabul was more severe than the punishment for the Dor HaFelagah.
Let us learn from these lessons that Bein Adam LaChaveiro is paramount.How our fellow man is treated and how we become role models for our children (and students) are of supreme importance.