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Parshat Noach

By: Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg

I heard a fascinating idea on this week’s Parsha from my Rabbi, Rav Shiloni.

There are two styles of architecture. Bricks and stones. Bricks are all the same shape, the same depth, look the same, smell the same, act the same, everything about them is identical. Combine bricks and form buildings. A relatively Eastern European approach. And there is the stone style. Here, yes, it is a bit more tricky. Every stone is different, not naturally fitting together. Each stone has it's own colour and shape, it's own depth and area. Yet what we see is, the stone approach yields a more beautiful city. It's much more pleasant on the eye. Walking into the Old City of Jerusalem for example.

Have a look at the end of this weeks Parsha - the building of Migdal Bavel (The Tower of Babel). "Each man said to his fellow "come, let us make breaks and burn them in fire". And the brick served them as stone..." (Genesis 11:3-4) It wasn't just that they happened to be using bricks to build the tower. Their whole philosophy was a brick philosophy! Everyone need to be the same. Individual differences were shun. There wasn't room for self expression. Everyone was to be a brick.

Comes along Avraham (then Avram). Now this man is no brick. He thinks independently. He espouses the belief in one God. Despite being raised in an idolatrous family. What did Nimrod, the king at that time, try and do with him? Throw him into the fire! To turn a stone into a brick. (See Rashi on Genesis 11:28). But he didn't burn. A true stone doesn't. Avram was different. Above social pressure. Above going with the flow. Immune to fire.

Interestingly, Abram had a brother whose name was Haran. He was there at the burning. And before they threw Abram into the fire, he was weighing up his own possibilities and alliances. Was he with Abram or with everyone else in the world? He decided, let's see what happens. If Abram survives, I'm with him. If not, I'm with everyone else. And when Abram survived, Haran declared himself a supporter. So they threw him into the fire too. Now on the outside, he looked like a stone. He said "I'm different to all of you". But in reality, on the inside, he was just a brick. He was also a follower. And guess what happened? On the outside - he didn't burn. And on the inside, he did.

In response to the brick-philosophy, Hashem muddled all the languages. Now they were different. Nothing they could do about it. And we are left with a powerful lesson. Yes, we need to get along. Yes, we need to be united. But what makes the world beautiful, what makes life beautiful - is when we are all unique. We were created to be ourselves. To be independent thinkers. To follow what is right. To stand up against what is not. We should merit to see the uniqueness in our own soul and the uniqueness of everyone around us.