This week's Parsha lists two generations of sinners, Dor Hamabul (the generation of the flood) and Dor Haflagah (the generation of the division). The former lost their fear in Hashem, and were involved in all types of theft. The latter lost themselves even more by rebelling directly against Hashem. They even went so far as to try to build a tower to conquer the heavens.
However, if we examine the punishments they each got, we find an interesting phenomenon. The Dor Hamabul was completely eliminated. The Dor Haflagah, which was deserving of a much harsher punishment, only received dispersement. Why did Hashem punish them with such leniency?
Chazal say that there was a merit that the Dor Haflagah possessed which made Hashem punish them leniently - Shalom (peace). No matter how bad they were, they still possessed בין אדם לחבירו - "between man and his fellow man." It says by the Dor Hamabul, "the earth was filled with robbery" (בראשית ו:יא). Their relationship with others was corrupt, and therefore Hashem punished them harshly. The Dor Haflagah lived in harmony and unity, and therefore Hashem was more lenient. Rashi בראשית יא:ט() writes that the lesson is that we see how much the Torah dislikes "Machloket" (divisiveness), and how Torah values the greatness of peace. This is consistent with other ideas expressed by our Rabbis.
The Rambam (הלכות חנוכה ד:יד) writes that "peace is is so great that the entire Torah was given to create peace in the world as it is written, `The Torah ways are pleasant and its ways are peaceful'". The Ramban begins his celebrated letter to his son regarding proper conduct, by stressing the importance of "always speaking gently to every individual at every occasion."
The lesson for us is obvious. Our Yetzer Harah sometimes pushes us to fight and create controversy. We see the importance of fighting the Yetzer Harah and promoting peace and harmony amongst our family, friends, and community.