Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Noach

Unity and Conformity

The main theme of this parsha is that unity in the cause of evil is a terrible vice. The generation of the flood found only one dissenting voice to its program of licentiousness, robbery and oppression. That voice, Noach, was weak and ineffective in turning the people away from conforming to the will of the majority in creating a totally evil society. Unanimity usually is a result of conformity and conformity for the sake of conformity is hardly a virtue. Eastern Europe is just emerging from the grey pallor of conformity that was the hallmark of Communist rule. 99.5% majorities won elections and everyone hailed the Leader, the Party, and the Brave New World, which bore no resemblance to the actuality of life under tyrannical rule. As much as we desire and treasure unity of purpose and people, a unity which demands conformity is a negative feature in human society. The conformity of the generation of the flood led to its annihilation.

The second example of uniformity as a negative in society that the parsha describes is the uniformity of the generation of the Tower of Babel. Everyone spoke the same language and everyone had the same thoughts. A society that was brainwashed into conformity had "few things to say." It was as though the whole world of that time was the North Korea of today. This time the Lord chose not to destroy that generation but rather to force it to divest its rigid conformity. A different language, a different culture, different ideas, different strokes for different folks, all of this was part of God's plan for humanity. The Talmud teaches us "dispersion of an evil society is a boon for that society and for the world generally." An Abraham could not have arisen and been successful in introducing the then radical idea of monotheism to the world if there was only one language, one ruler, and one conformist society. The Heavenly Father is hard-pressed to be appreciated in a society of Big Brother. And thus the dispersion of the people of the generation of the Tower of Babel is to be seen as a most positive development in the evolution of human civilization.

The rabbis in the Talmud stated, "Just as no two human beings are ever exactly alike physically, so too no two human beings ever share exactly the same opinions and thoughts [about life and events.]" The rabbis were not complaining about this state of affairs. They were merely pointing out the reality of the human condition. Thus they saw unity of purpose for good causes - those advocated by the Torah and Jewish tradition - as a positive goal to be achieved. But they warned us not to confuse unity of purpose with conformity of thought and style. Conformity is an outer feature of life - everyone dressed the same and apparently behaving in like fashion - while unity is more a matter of the heart and soul, of the inner self of the Jew. We should never forget the role of our father Abraham - the prophet called him, "one, unique" - in rejecting conformity and advancing the true unity of God and man, of society and the Jewish people, in the pursuit of goodness, justice and kindness towards all. The parsha of Noach should obviously be seen as the introduction to the story of Abraham and of the unique nation in the world that he founded - Israel.

Rabbi Berel Wein


Text Copyright 2004 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

Rabbi Frand on Parshas Noach
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5770

Why We Keep Sinning
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

Delight Amidst Devastation
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762

> The Miracle of Free Will
Rabbi Elly Broch - 5765

Not Better or Worse, Just Different
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Noah's Spiritual Leadership
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Love versus Fear
Shlomo Katz - 5763

Internal Beliefs Have External Effects
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758

Unity and Conformity
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Free Time
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

Beshegam Hu Moshe?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5767

The Flood
Shlomo Katz - 5769

ArtScroll

Window to the World
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5762

Intellectual Beliefs
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Now -A Hopeful Place
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

In His Generation
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information