Parshat Noach – The Tower of Bavel

By Rabbi Dovid Markel

 

The Torah tells us of the tower of Bavel (Bereishit 11: 1-7):

“Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words…And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and fire them thoroughly”; so the bricks were to them for stones, and the clay was to them for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered upon the face of the entire earth.” And the Lord descended to see the city and the tower that the sons of man had built. And the Lord said, “Lo! [they are] one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they have commenced to do. Now, will it not be withheld from them, all that they have planned to do? Come, let us descend and confuse their language, so that one will not understand the language of his companion.”

In contrast to this verse that conveys that the world united by a single language under a unified goal can lead to a catastrophic end, we find another verse that expresses an opposite message.

Concerning the Messianic era, the prophet tells us (Tzfanya 3:9-11) “For then I will convert the peoples to a pure language that all of them call in the name of the Lord, to worship Him of one accord. From the other side of the rivers of Cush, My supplicants, the community of My scattered ones-they shall bring Me an offering. On that day you shall not be ashamed of all your deeds [with] which you rebelled against Me, for then I will remove from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer continue to be haughty on My holy mount.”

The difference however is whether the unity is an extension of ego, or whether the unity is a product of humility. When mankind came together to build a tower they expressed, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make ourselves a name.”

Their desire for unity was a product of the pretentious arrogance that were man to only unite towards a singular end, they’d have no need for a deity to venerate. They were driven by ego and the desire for self-aggrandizement. G-d’s response was to show the superficiality of their endeavor. When man is driven by his own ego, the unity that is created is hollow and empty.

For the spirit of togetherness born out of the desire of perpetuating ego is as insignificant as it is paradoxical. The moment one person’s ego will clash with his fellows, the grand undertaking of a unified plan will disintegrate as if it never was; in its place will be only hate and discord.

Indeed, G-d felt no need to expressly punish the generation; he let their ego destroy themselves. By making them cognizant of their own language—their own expression, thoughts and desires—as they are separate from their fellow humanity destroyed itself. For a unity driven by ego is both absurd and untenable.

In contrast to unity driven by ego, expressed in the episode of the Tower of Bavel, is the unity as a product of humility, which will be experienced in the messianic era. There, the verse tells us the reason why a singular language is not detrimental. For, “On that day you shall not be ashamed of all your deeds [with] which you rebelled against Me, for then I will remove from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer continue to be haughty on My holy mount.”

When man truly comes together, and the all of mankind truly come together without pride or personal ego, what will be accomplished is beyond the scope of our imaginations.

When we put aside our differences to create a civilization—for the glory of G-d almighty—where each individual taps into his greatest potential with complete cohesiveness with his fellow, instead of the dystopia created by the Tower of Bavel and the drive for ego, we’ll create the ultimate utopia, where each individual works in tandem with his fellow to reveal the Glory of G-d on this world.

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