Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The tower of Babel

The KMTT podcast has returned to discussing the parashot hashavua (which went out of style around slichot up until after simchat tora). The first parasha is Noach. However, the lecture did not address the story of Noach, but rather a tiny section in the same parasha, the famous story of the tower of Babel. The story has the makings of a sin and its punishment, the question is raised, what exactly was the sin and why this punishment?

The first interpretation is that the city-builders wanted to build their tower in order to defy god. In a way the tower then became a kind of siege tower. They united in order to place themselves over god and god reacted by fundamentally breaking their union, through diversifying their language.

The second interpretation is that by building a city, they created a place to flock together. God's intention with the creation is, however, that man would spread out over the face of the earth. In that sense, the city building and as culminating part of that process the tower building, was not as much a sin, but rather an error. And the reaction of god, to diversify the language, was much less a punishment, than a measure to ensure the spreading out of the peoples.
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