The Ties That Bond by Rabbi D. Blackstein

(2002/5763)

The Torah tells us, in the last Pasuk of Perek 10, that from the families of  Noach the nations were separated, נפרדו on the earth after the flood. Perek 11 begins by describing a type of unity and tranquility that mankind had achieved. However, that comfort lead to a degree of rebellion against Hashem. Pasuk 4 tells us that the people planned to build a city, and a tower that would reach into the Heavens, and through this they would make a name for themselves there. The Torah continues to tell us that the motivation for this action came from their fear of eventually being scattered,  נפוץ, on the face of the earth. Mankind has this uncanny ability to find ways in which he ignores the kindness of Hashem. Rashi, on Pasuk 5, points out why we are called the sons of “man.”  Just as Adam in 3:12 blamed his sin on Chava and did not show appreciation to Hashem for giving him a mate, so too this generation chose to rebel instead of showing Hashem that they appreciated that their ancestors survived the Flood.

How did they rebel? The Rashbam says that they went against the commandment to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Instead, they sought to dwell and fill the Heavens. Indeed, the Ramban seems to subscribe to this when he says that they tried to establish a “name” there, implying that they wanted to change the way Hashem relates to His creation. Why should the concern over being scattered cause mankind to seek a solution in a totally different domain? Surely, we believe in a connection between Heaven and Earth! However, the efforts of these people seemed to show dissatisfaction with the way Hashem had set up Heaven and Earth. They failed to see that our efforts have to be primarily focused on the Earth and not on the Heavens above.

We must realize that the way to deal with our difficulties is through allegiance to Hashem and His Torah. It would be seem that the first Mishna in the 3rd Perek of Sukkah has a similar message. The Mishna describes qualities that render a Lulav invalid. One such quality is separated, נפרצו where the leaves are totally separated from the spine. This is what the people were afraid of in Pasuk 4, lest they be scattered, נפוץ, and be totally separated from each other. However, the Torah already described them as separated נפרדו, at the end of Perek 10. Indeed, our Mishna describes that a condition of the leaves being spread out but not separated from the spine, called נפרדו, still retains Kashrut. Rebbe Yehuda says that this type of Lulav must still be tied together so that it looks like all other Lulavim. That is to say, that even though the people are spread out, the situation is not optimized until you bind them together with Torah. People that are united still have to show their unity through that which truly binds us - the Torah. The people had this quality and then lost it when they began to fear that they would ultimately be separated even from each other - נפרצו.

Still, this generation was better than the generation of the flood, who were destroyed. The punishment for the generation of the Tower was that they were scattered, but not destroyed. Rashi, in Pasuk 9,  points out that this is because they were careful in the way they treated each other, as opposed to the lack of moral and ethical concern on the part of the generation of the flood. Let us take our Parsha and our Mishna as examples and reminders of how important it is to be bound to Hashem and to each other.

Trust in Hashem by Uriel Schechter

The Building and Maintenance of Mikvaot – Part 1 by Rabbi Chaim Jachter