We read of the Great Flood this week in the Parsha of Noach.
With the Flood, nature seemed to change. The Chatam Sofer explains the defect which occurred in the creation in the period after the Flood. The people in the generation of the Flood sinned because they were bored and had nothing to do. They did not have to labor in planting crops and raising children. Now the Holy One, blessed be He imposed upon mankind the cares of the world. People now must sow and reap, and “they will not rest.” They will not yawn because of excessive boredom. They will therefore not sin and indeed Noach immediately began to live according to the new order of things (9:20). “And Noach, the man of the earth, began and planted a vineyard.” The Malbim claims that our Sages saw three basic changes in nature. Until the Flood, people had to sow once every 40 years. Now they had to work all the time. Secondly, until then the sun circled the equator and it was always warm and light. Now there were seasons in the year, with all the effects on Man’s nature and health. Thirdly, from then on people no longer had the opportunity to rest; they would not be free to do whatever they wanted.
In telling the story of the Tower of Babel, the Torah wished to explain the reason why there are a multitude of languages today, although Adam was born alone. No doubt there was a failure in civilization and Hashem directed the people to become separated and many languages were developed immediately. The Abravanel points out that the expression that they traveled “from the east” meant that they moved away from the ancient days of old. The type of government that existed was evil and forbidden, yet the Torah never prohibited it. The Abravanel says, “When Hashem saw that Adam and all his descendants had immersed themselves in all the lusts for luxury, and had defiled themselves with them, He did not forbid His people… but encouraged the Children of Israel to behave in those matters with justice and in a proper manner, not in a despicable manner.” In any event, the purpose of the world according to the Abravanel is for it to be as it was before, before humankind ruined it by progress and by building the city and the Tower. The ruination of mankind by making technology into a god is also seen in the words of our Sages in the Midrash that at the time of the generation of the separation “if a man fell and died no-one would pay attention to it, whereas if a single brick fell they would sit and cry exclaiming when will there be another like it.” Technology, which was created to serve mankind, appeared as a goal, upon whose altar man was to be sacrificed, and that was the failure of this post-Flood generation.
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