Parashat Noach

Rabbi Boaz Tomsky

    I'm half Scottish. My mother was born and raised in Glasgow. Like my mom, people from Scotland take a lot of pride in their motherland. She even insisted that I wear a tartan kilt at my wedding, but I thought it would have looked strange together with my black, Borsalino hat. Sometimes they're asked, "What contributions have Scotland offered to the world? What are they famous for?" The answer, in a word, is Dolly.

     I'm referring to 1996 when scientists in Scotland astonished the world by announcing that they had successfully cloned an adult sheep. Since then, many animals have been cloned. In Oregon, a pair of monkeys. In Virginia, an adult pig. In Japan, in the year 2000, scientists cloned a bull from a cloned bull, the first re-clone ever documented. In Italy scientists cloned an endangered wild sheep and in Texas, scientists cloned a cat.

     But cloning originated in Scotland or at least that's what the world thinks. Actually, cloning occurred many thousands of years ago. I know this to be true since everything is found in the Torah. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot states “continue to delve into the Torah, for it is all contained in it”. But where do we find such a concept in the Torah? In this week's Parsha.

     Toward the end of today's reading, we are told of a generation after the flood, the dor haflagah-generation of the dispersion. Many individuals gathered together, with a common goal, to build a huge tower, to wage war against Hashem. This concept alone is difficult. How could man of flesh and blood even conceive of being able to battle God, a Supreme Being? Didn't they realize that a little building was no match against God?

     The Torah elaborates that their plans were short lived. Hashem interceded by making their language impossible to understand. One could not decipher their friend's words any longer. This caused the people to separate from one another, and disperse throughout the face of the earth.

     The Torah states an unusual detail about this particular generation: The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose. The people of this generation thought the same, spoke the same, and were engaged in the same activities. They were totally unified.

     Certainly this generation was wrong in their actions, but why would God punish them in this unusual way by confusing their languages? Why would God take away the only redeeming factor from these people? Wasn't their relationships and unprecedented unification a noble trait that should be encouraged?     Hashem is teaching us a philosophical approach regarding the issue of modern day cloning. The fact that these individuals were of one language and of common purpose was not a virtuous trait. On the contrary, it goes against the role and purpose of people being individuals, with specific traits and unique characteristics. Hashem created each and every one of us differently so that we can celebrate our differences.

     This is why God confused their languages. The dor haflagah now has the potential to realize they are different. They can now see their own unique qualities and, in turn, make the world a more meaningful place. As my mother would often tell me, "if everyone was the same, life would be boring."

     This could explain the anger they displayed toward Hashem. When no one felt unique or special in the dor haflagah, they became enraged toward God. Certainly they knew that a tall edifice could not reach the heavens but their message was clear. They felt worthless as they spoke and acted all the same. This further explains why changing their languages would affect their desire in waging war against God. Once they saw their unique role in this world, their anger toward Hashem subsided.

     In a similar vein, we encounter this concept in last week's Parsha. After Cain killed his brother Abel, Hashem turns to him and says, The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground." The word really means bloods. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 37A) derives from here that anyone who destroys a single life, the Torah considers it as though you have destroyed a complete world. Why is this the case? This seems to be unfair! Why should we consider it as though a whole world was destroyed?

     Since that individual's unique contributions can not be duplicated, their potential can no longer be realized. Therefore, the entire world is missing out due to the loss of a single life. If we were all clones, programmed robots, a single life would be insignificant. It is our differences that enable the potential of the world to be realized.


First Published November 5, 2005  for National Council of Young Israel Weekly Divrei Torah