From the beginning of the Torah through the end of this week’s Parshat Noach, the Torah relays a four-act drama on the theme of responsibility and moral development. Though the stories may seem unrelated, when read in sequence they present the maturation of humanity, which echoes the maturation of the individual.
The first thing we learn as children is that we control our own actions, and that we must accept personal responsibility for the consequences of those actions, something Adam and Chava learned when they were punished for their decision to eat from the tree of knowledge. The second lesson is that of moral responsibility, as Cain is held responsible for his killing Hevel. The third lesson is the realization that we have a duty not just to ourselves but to those on whom we have an influence, or collective responsibility, a lesson Noah failed in the beginning of our Parsha when he failed to save anyone other than himself and his immediate family. Finally, we learn that man cannot just focus on his own kind but there is an Authority beyond mankind to whom we respond, illustrated by the story of the tower of Bavel.
The subtlety and depth of the Torah is remarkable, which makes its study and analysis so rewarding. It was the first, and is still the greatest, text on the human condition and in this instance our psychological growth from instinct to conscience, from “dust of the earth” to morally responsible agents of the Torah and its lessons.