Torah Tidbit Noach
Many of the Parshiot in Sefer Bereshit contain interesting stories, but Parshat Noach in particular seems filled to the brim. While many only remember it for the Flood, the Parsha has so much more to offer. From the story of the raven and the doves, to the invention of wine, to the beginnings of Avraham’s life, Parshat Noach has many accounts of the history of mankind. One story which is often overlooked, despite being one of the most confusing stories in the Torah, is the story of the Tower of Babel.
Just a few generations after almost all life on Earth was obliterated in the Flood, humanity decided to attack Hashem and attempt to conquer the Heavens. In their own words, “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.” In retaliation, Hashem made it so that they were unable to understand each other, making the construction of their tower impossible. After reading about the entire account of the Flood, this story makes little sense. The simplest question on this section is why the people would be willing to attack Hashem after hearing firsthand what would happen if they sinned. However, an even more interesting question is what the Torah is trying to teach us by juxtaposing this story with the story of the Flood.
To answer this query, we must first address a simpler, seemingly unrelated issue. Why is the Beit HaMikdash still destroyed after 2000 years? As most students could tell you, the Bayit Rishon was destroyed for sins between Man and Hashem, and was destroyed for 70 years. On the other hand, Bayit Sheni was destroyed for sins between Man and Man, and has still not been rebuilt.
This answer is the key to answering every question about the confusing story of the Tower of Babel. According to Rashi, the sin which sealed the fate of the Generation of the Flood was their theft. They had no regard for the welfare of their fellow humans, and therefore, from a Divine perspective, deserved the harshest of punishments. However, the Tower of Babel was a sin against Hashem, not against other humans. In fact, it was a collaborative effort that required that humanity work together to achieve their common goal. Although their actions were sinful, they knew that Hashem would not punish them as He had punished the Generation of the Flood, since they were working together. The Torah placed the stories of the Flood and the Tower of Babel together to highlight the importance of treating each other with kindness and decency. If even sinners who attempted to destroy Hashem realized this fact, how much more so should the Jewish People do so!
Tenth Grade Student