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 NETZAVIM AND VAYEILECH:

View Complete List

After the Ashes
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Falsehood Has No Legs
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Reflecting Back on Shemittah
Shlomo Katz - 5761

ArtScroll

Not Hiding, But Seek
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Lost in Translation
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

Afraid to Miss the Parade
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

A Timeless Moment
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

G-d's Concealment
Shlomo Katz - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Jewish Reactions
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

Song of the Conscience
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

God's Covenant
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5770

> The Secret of Teshuvah
Shlomo Katz - 5772

This Time, Let's Do It Right
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

Our Doting Father
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5766

The Longest Day
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5769



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