Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Noach
To dedicate this lesson

Tower and Power


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Cheshvan 2 5780
"Come, let us make bricks…."
Who in the world is not familiar with the story of Noach? This dramatic tale of spectacular survival has captivated humanity forever – the saga of the curious castaway who boards a ship & escapes to a Brave New World.
But as well-known as we are with Noach, we are far less understanding of the episode that comes near the end of the Sedra, the saga of the Tower of Bavel (or Babble). What is happening here? Why did people want to build a giant tower? Did they really believe they could ascend to the Heavens & battle G-d? What were they trying to accomplish, & how & why were their plans frustrated?
Rav Yochanan Zweig of the Miami Yeshiva offers a terrific - & timely – insight into these events:
Just three centuries after the Great Flood wiped out the world, demonstrating Hashem’s power & His problem with a populace that did not respect one another, along comes another generation that descends into darkness. The "Tower People" have discovered technology, in its earliest form. No longer resigned to live in mud huts or grass shacks, they now can build skyscrapers that are a testament to their advanced & mighty civilization. They challenge Hashem – the universe’s ultimate Creator – by proclaiming that they, too, are creators whose power knows no bounds. Indeed, they decide, they can tower over everything & everyone – even over Hashem.
They speak, as the pasuk says, with "safa echat," one language – the language of Me. They are "devarim achadim," of one purpose only – to make bigger & better products that will enhance their quality of life & allow them to harness, & then rule the world.
Sound familiar, anyone?!
Hi-Tech is indeed amazing, but as we become more & more focused on our own needs & pleasures, we lose sight of the bigger picture: We were created by Hashem in order to refine our souls, rather than merely reward our sensual desires. We live not only to build & amass things, but to perfect our behavior vis-a-vis the invisible, yet morally-attractive attributes of honesty, compassion, empathy & integrity.
Hashem declares that the language, the discourse, must be changed. The Tower People must be dispersed to the far corners of the world, where they will have to learn to get along with others, to understand that they do not have a monopoly on The Word; other cultures are valuable in their own right, even if they speak another language.
The world is preparing to welcome a new voice, a true hero to its midst. Avraham will personify a revolutionary concept: It is only Hashem who is One; the peoples of the earth are many, & each of them stands tall in his own right.
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