This Shabbos we read one of the mast famous episodes of all time, the story of Noah and the flood. The flood was one of the greatest tragedies to affect all of mankind, wiping out the entire world and leaving no memory of them. Certainly the harshness of this punishment is felt and appreciated. In last weeks Parsha we read the story of the generation of the dispersion, the Dor Haflagah, who tried to build a tower to rebel against G-d. Although they were directly trying to rebel against G-d, their punishment was to be dispersed, not to be killed. They had families and left behind descendants at the end of their lives. An obvious question is, why was the generation of the flood punished more than the generation of the Dispersion? Isn’t the crime of rebelling directly against the Almighty greater than any sin we could think of?
Than commentaries explain that the sin of the generation of the flood was very different than the sin of the generation of the dispersion. The sins of the generation of Noah were sins that were based in character flaws. When someone has a character flaw, it is extremely difficult to eradicate it. Even his or her children will likely learn from their parents and act like they did. This sin is so great that Hashem saw fit to punish the generation and wipe it out. Other sins, as severe as they can be, can hopefully be corrected.
There is a famous saying told in the name of Rav Yisroel Salanter “It is easier to complete the entire Talmud than it is to change one character trait.” This is a lesion that we clearly try to learn from the story of Noah – how important it is to try to improve our character traits. Indeed, the Sefer Charaidim writes that the reason Noah found favor in the eyes of Hashem from the onset was because of the trait of being calm and easygoing. We clearly are taught the importance of kind acts and behavior to be able to serve Hashem properly.