Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
It’s not working. This week’s Torah portion continues with the description of humanity’s failure. People sin, steal, and betray, and God starts over. Only Noah and his family enter the ark because of the flood, in order to save themselves. Our sages throughout the generations express disappointment. Why didn’t Noah act to save everyone? How could he have worried only about himself and not prayed and pleaded to God, and not called upon all people to immediately mend their ways? Afterwards, the story of the Tower of Babel appears. All of humanity unites in order to erect a presumptuous tower that reaches heaven. People want to rule, to dominate, to make themselves into God. They worship technology, human innovation and power, and leave no room for the Creator.
What is the solution? The answer appears in next week’s Torah portion – Avraham Avinu. He makes amends for the sin of Noah and demonstrates an enormous capacity to care. When God wants to destroy Sodom, Avraham does not remain silent, but argues and protests because that’s how a true believer behaves. When the people of his generation sin, he does not ignore them and worry only about himself, but rather educates them with love, patience, and tolerance.
And instead of erecting a Tower of Babel, he erects a humble tent, open on all sides to everyone, a home that is nothing but kindness and hospitality. The Tower of Babel collapsed, but the tent of Avraham exists until today, the inheritance of his children’s children. The builders of a tower tried to make a name for themselves and their name was erased. Yet the name of Avraham is eternal precisely because Avraham did not glorify himself but lived by his faith and his love for others.