How Do You Get to Heaven? – Parshat Noach
How do you get to heaven? The best option is with the pure faith in the Creator of the world. The second? It is not recommended to try it at home, look what happened to the Dor Haflaga!
This week’s Torah portion is parshat “Noach.” The Torah relates the story of the flood, a mighty tsunami that swept the entire world and led to the loss of all mankind with the exception of Noah and his wife plus their sons and their wives. The entire world was wiped out due to their evil deeds and the utter corruption of any sense of morality, as was discussed in our lesson about the flood. Later in the parsha, the Torah relates how after the flood ended and the Noah’s sons went out from the ark and had children, the number of people in the world increased again until a generation arose which was called the “Dor Haflaga” or “Generation of the Dispersion (Tower of Babel).” The Torah describes their deeds: “Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words…Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 11:1,4).
Humanity, the descendants of those who survived the flood, became degenerate and reached a new low. They united together and formed a special commission to consecrate a war against G-d. What was their agenda? Rashi, according to the Midrash, offers several possibilities: “They came with one plan and said, ‘He has no right to select the upper regions exclusively for Himself. Let us ascend to the skies and wage war against Him.’ Another explanation: [they spoke] against the Sole Being (G-d) of the universe. Yet another explanation is that they spoke ‘sharp words’: They said, Once every 1,656 years, the sky totters, as it did in the time of the Flood. Come and let us make supports for it” (from Genesis Rabbah 28:6).
So, what—were they completely crazy or just stupid? Let’s think for a moment: if they believed in the Creator how could they think they could build a tower to fight against Him? If they did not believe in the Creator, then what kind of nonsense was this idea to build a tower and fight against Him? Let us try to understand their plan.
The most important aspect of faith is the belief in the renewal of the world. This is the belief that G-d created the world out of nothing and renews the world at all times, as we say in our prayers in the blessing “yotzer hama’orot” (“the Creator of Lights”): “He renews daily, perpetually, the work of creation.” This is the basic belief that the Creator who created the world manages and supervises the world at all times, and that He is omnipotent and can do anything. As long as a person does not believe this, no matter how much the person believes in G-d, his faith will be lacking.
Let’s think for a moment: if they believed in the Creator how could they think they could build a tower to fight against Him?
Let us explain this with a simple example: You work in a factory that someone has set up. His has the right to decide how the work will be done and what his factory will produce. Let’s say someone were to come to you and tell you secretly that the boss left the factory and moved to another country, severing all ties to the factory. The factory really does not interest him anymore. He is now in another country, and he even got married there, and he has completely given up his factory. It simply does not interest him anymore. Suppose you know for sure that this is the truth and that he will never return to the factory ever again. Would you have any fear of him or feel any commitment to him? The moment you find out such a thing, you can basically do whatever you want. You can come and go whenever you feel like it; there is no owner in charge. Even though there was an owner, right now, practically speaking, there is no owner at all. Similarly, we believe that HaKadosh Baruch Hu created the world and continues managing the world at every moment—unlike those fools who think that the Creator created the world and then abandoned it and stopped watching over what was happening in the world.
Faith is the best tower to reach heaven with!
In the picture, the Tower of Babel – the megalomaniacal dream that shattered to pieces
When we congregate in the synagogue for prayer and in yeshivot to study Torah, we do so in order to strengthen this basic belief. However, in contrast to synagogues and yeshivot, there is an assembly of “synagogues” and “yeshivas” of flawed understanding and heresy in this belief. This was the intention of the generation of the Tower of Babel when they constructed the city and the tower. Their intention in building the city and the tower had a meaning that went beyond physical construction. Their stated intention was to build an entire city of buildings and towers which would contradict the belief in HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The peak of this structure was supposed to have reached the Heavens—meaning to the Creator of the world—and supposedly deny His existence.
This is the meaning what Rashi’s writes when he says that they used “sharp words.” Their idea to build supporting structures for the sky was based on heresy and a lack of belief in the renewal of the world—the idea that the world is run under the supervision of the Creator. The two interpretations brought by Rashi actually have one meaning. Their war against the Creator came from a theory they developed that there was a natural phenomenon that once every 1656 years, the sky would collapse. This was completely incorrect. It was a decision that the Creator made after humanity lost their way and became completely corrupted. This was not a natural phenomenon. When they decided to declare war against G-d, they were not foolish enough to think they could fight against G-d Himself. Their intention was to create a war with their opinions against the true view of holiness and the correct outlook of faith among mankind. This correct outlook would help mankind come to know G-d. But they wanted the opposite: to remove the presence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu from the land, so that no one would mention or even recognize the name of G-d here in this world, as it is written “who think to cause My people to forget My name” (Jeremiah 23:27). And so, this is what they meant when they said: “and we will make a name for ourselves. They wanted to appropriate G-d’s name and honor for themselves, because the name of G-d is His honor, as it is written, “And blessed is His glorious name forever” etc., (Psalms 72:19).
This is what the builders of the Tower of Babel planned to do. “And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens’” (Genesis 11:4). This was instead of gathering like the Jews do in the synagogue where through the power of faith, they reach up to heaven, as it is written: “This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17). They sought to build a tower of evil ideas whose content would, so to speak, reach up to heaven in order to fight with the Creator. The construction was metaphorical and a cover for their malicious intent.
Our response to the generation of the Tower of Babel is to gather in synagogues and thus strengthen our faith in the renewal of the world and in the One Creator who oversees the whole world at all times.
(Based on Likutei Halachot, Beit HaKenesset 6:9)