Noah – Genesis 6:9 – 11:32 – The Parashat Ha Shavua for Shabbat, Saturday, November 2, 2019

Why was the Tower of Babel such a problem that God had to destroy it? “Everyone on earth had the same language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard.”—Brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar.— And they said, “Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for ourselves; else we shall be scattered all over the world.” The LORD came down to look at the city and tower that man had built, and the LORD said, “If, as one people with one language for all, this is how they have begun to act, then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach.” (Genesis 11:1-6)

On the face of it, this seems like an ideal situation; humanity is united, speaking one language, united in one purpose. What could be better?

One of my teachers, Rabbi Haim Ovadia argues, “The next generation [after the flood] then decides to create a totalitarian society, where all must think the same thoughts and speak the same language, but their plan is stopped by God, who sees the looming threat of a 1984-like society.

Thus, in our Torah the Tower of Babel does not represent unity, but conformity. In the end God wants us celebrate our uniqueness and diversity, not conformity. Let us keep that in mind when so-called populists promise us a national community at the expense of our individuality.