Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Noach 5771- The sins of the generation

Parsha question: What was the sin of the generation of the Tower of Babel?
Note: There are multiple answers to this question- from the mundane to the esoteric.

This weeks Parsha: Noach Bereishis (Genesis) 6:9-11:32

The Torah states in bereishis Chapter 11

6. 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? ו. וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הֹוָ־ה הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם וְזֶה הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת וְעַתָּה לֹא יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת:

But it does not state what is that they were doing that was so terrible. What was wrong with them being united and building a tower to signify this unity?

The Midrash and various commentaries (Ramban amongst them) shed light on this incident. Earlier in the chapter it stated:

4. 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.” ד. וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶה לָּנוּ עִיר וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם וְנַעֲשֶׂה לָּנוּ שֵׁם פֶּן נָפוּץ עַל פְּנֵי כָל הָאָרֶץ:

It is the the phrase “וְנַעֲשֶׂה לָּנוּ שֵׁם” (make ourselves a name) there that gives an indication as to their intention. What does this mean? The Torah uses the idea of the “70 nations of the world’ as a symbolic indication of all the nations of the world. Thus why we see that for the sukkot sacrifces there were a total of 70 bulls- one to atone for each nation of the world. Mystically, each of the 70 nations is said to be linked to one fo the 70 Mazalot (a direct translation would be constellations or groups of stars- here the meaning is more symbolic, the mazelot being the heavenly angel assigned to look after the nation), and their fate could be read in the stars. The wise men/sorcerors of the nations saw there that a nation was due to rise that would not be under the mazelot but rather directly under G-d and beyond the boundaries of the natural world.

How do we know they were concerned with the natural world and its boundaries and did not look at this in siritual terms? In verse 3 it states

. 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. ג. וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ הָבָה נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים וְנִשְׂרְפָה לִשְׂרֵפָה וַתְּהִי לָהֶם הַלְּבֵנָה לְאָבֶן וְהַחֵמָר הָיָה לָהֶם לַחֹמֶר:

In other words- they wanted to challenge G-d, but abandoned the spirtitual realm for the physical- emphasising theit attachment to the physical ( “clay was to them for mortar”). Here was their first sin- the abandoning of all elements of spirituality to emphasise their attachment to the ohysical. In effect, they denied G-d and the creation of the spiritual world and only looked at the physical world.

The second sin was that they sought to alter G-d’s plan for the world. they sought to block the creation fo the Jewish nation as they feared the giving of the Torah, foreseeing that in the time of Mashiach it would lead to the Jews having mastery over the world as they represented G-d to the rest of the nations. And this lead to the third sin: they sought to replace G-d! How did they plan to do this?

Here the Midrash states that they sought to place a statue on the top of the tower with a sword drawn to callenge th eheavens. But it was not just a statue, but meant to be a representation of one of the mazalot, in essence, they would choose which angel to worship and have all 70 nations worship that one angel exclusively, killing all that differed. In essence, they wished to create an alternate deity that would be worshipped and thereby block the emergence of the Jews into the world.

It was ultimately this plan that led to their downfall. The nations were fine while they built the tower, each telling itself it would be able to grasp power and rule over all when the time came. When the time came for them to choose which of the mazalot they would worship, the chaos began. G-d made each one desire to rule, and to realise that if the mazalot of the other nation was chosen, they would be subjugated by them. It was this argument that led to the fracturing of the alliance as each naiton saw in the stars they would have a cnace to rule, and they refused to subjugate themselves to another!

Thus we see the three sins of the dor haflaga (generation of the dispersion)
1) abandonment of the spiritual for the physical
2) they sought to alter and block G-d’s plans for the world (denying his divnity and rulership)
3) they sought to replace G-d.

October 5, 2010 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The people wanted to make a name for themselves, and become the leaders of the world.

    Comment by Gavriel | October 6, 2010 | Reply

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