While the story of Noach and the Flood clearly takes centre stage in the Torah reading this week (it’s probably one of the best-known Bible stories), there’s another significant story that we tend to overlook.
The Torah describes how, not long after the devastation of the Flood, people united to rebuild the world. They all gathered in a valley- in what would today be
I suppose, theirs would be a logical response to a post-destruction generation. Build a secure environment where you can be protected and not face the annihilation that others had before. Surely we should applaud their efforts to rebuild the world, to rise from the ashes (or perhaps, in this case, the mud).
Yet, Hashem was not pleased with these people and their project. He “came down” to observe what was happening and immediately intervened. He didn’t destroy the people, mind you, just the project. Where there had been unity and collaboration, Hashem created division. He seprated them into 70 groups, each with its own language and culture. The resulting mayhem brought the building of the
What had they done wrong?
When you re-read the story, you’ll discover that their motivation for building the tower was “to make a name for ourselves”.
They still had fresh memories of a depraved generation; people bad enough that Hashem needed to destroy them. Their own focus should have been on building morality. Instead, they chose to create a legacy for themselves.
The Torah is a lesson book for our lives. Here the message is particularly relevant to us. As a post-Holocaust generation, we feel the urge to make a name for ourselves, to show the world that we are secure in our land and nationhood, so they shouldn’t think they can attack us.
Instead, Torah teaches that our most appropriate response is to create a “city for Hashem”. Rather than invest our efforts in rebuilding material structures, we need to work to build spirituality, morality and ethics. This approach forms the foundation for a successful, stable world.