Diaspophobia by Gavriel Epstein


Towards the end of Parashat Noach, the people of Bavel conspire to construct a tower to prevent, “NaFutz Al Penei Kol HaAretz,” “Being scattered upon the face of the entire Earth” (BeReishit 11:4).  In response, “VaYafatz Hashem Otam,” “Hashem scattered them,” (11:8) just as they had feared.  Hashem seems to be punishing them Middah KeNeged Middah, measure for measure, in accordance with what they feared.  This is similar to His reaction to Par’oh’s decision to afflict Bnei Yisrael, “Pen Yirbeh,” “Lest they increase” (Shemot 1:10).  Hashem responds by increasing the offspring of Bnei Yisrael tremendously while they were in Mitzrayim. In both cases, Hashem responds to a preventative measure by accomplishing that which that measure was intended to prevent.  However, the fear expressed by the people of Bavel is much more difficult to explain than that of Par’oh.  Par’oh logically assumes that by afflicting Bnei Yisrael, they would not multiply.  Why exactly do the people of Bavel, on the other hand, fear being scattered, and how do they hope to prevent this by building a tower?

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