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"Now the earth had become corrupt before G-d; and the earth had become filled with robbery. And G-d saw the earth and behold it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. G-d said to Noach, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth'" (Bereishis 6:11-13).

Rashi records the words of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 108a) that although the generation of the Flood committed many sins, their fate was sealed only on account of their sin of robbery.

Towards the end of the parashah we learn about the sin of the people who built the Tower of Bavel in order to organize a revolution against G-d. One of the explanations which Rashi writes is the opinion in the Midrash that they said, "He has no right to select the heavenly regions exclusively for Himself; let us ascend to the skies and make war upon Him."

Rashi addresses the question of why the first group was completely destroyed while the latter was only scattered around the world, although their blasphemous sin was surely greater than the sin of robbery. The answer, he says in the name of the Sages, is that there was strife and lack of unity among the generation of the flood, and therefore they were destroyed; but the second group conducted themselves in love and friendship, as it is said (Bereishis 11:1), "They were one people and had one language." From this we should learn how hateful to G-d is strife and how great is peace.

The Rabbis taught that the concept of robbery does not only apply to tangible things. One who awakens someone unnecessarily, for example, is guilty of "stealing" his sleep from him. As a matter of fact, they say, it is even more serious than stealing something physical since it cannot be returned to its owner in order to make amends for the sin.

The following moving story, from the book Her'ah Leanav, is recounted in the book Ish Lereieihu.

Rabbi Chaim Moshe Mandel zt"l was a renowned tzaddik who lived in Bnei Brak. Many came to him for his blessings and advice.

In his old age, Rabbi Mandel was not well and his movements were restricted. One of his grandchildren would often sleep over in order to assist the Rabbi in case of need. One cold wintry night, he woke up to what sounded like his grandparents arguing whisperingly in their bedroom. He found this hard to believe and when he listened more closely he heard his name mentioned several times.

Finally, he approached their room and has shocked at what he saw. The ill Rabbi had slipped off of the bed and was lying on the cold floor, unable to pick himself up. To make things worse, the Rabbi's holy body positioned itself, in their tiny bedroom, in such a way that his wife could not get off of the bed without stepping on him; something she did not want to do.

The obvious solution was to call the grandchild, who, as the grandmother argued, was sleeping there for this very purpose. However, the grandfather objected adamantly saying, "G-d forbid that we should awaken him. The lad needs his sleep and we dare not disturb him."

The boy had seen many great things by his illustrious grandfather but he later related that the scene of him lying on the cold floor in pain, suffering because he refused to wake him up, made an indelible impression upon him.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel