Did Noach Cause Migdal Bavel? by Binyamin Jachter


In Parashat Noach, two generations are destroyed: the generation of the flood and the generation of Migdal Bavel. The one link between the two generations is Noach and his family. Effectively, Noach was the sole seed of the second generation and the last, sacred remnant of the first generation.

After the flood begins, Noach and his family enter the Teivah in the order of “Noach UVanav VeIshto UNeshei Vanav,” “Noach, and his sons, and his wife, and the wives of his sons” (BeReishit 7:7). Here, Noach and his sons are split from their wives. Later in Parashat Noach, however, Hashem is ready to start the world anew and tells Noach, “Tzei Min HaTeivah Atah VeIshtecha UVanecha UNeshei Vanecha Itach,” “Leave from the Ark; you, and your wife, and your sons, and the wives of your sons” (8:16). The former Pasuk separates the men from their wives, whereas the latter Pasuk connects the husbands and their wives. When Noach leaves the Teivah, the Torah reverts back to the method of the first Pasuk, as it states, “VaYeitzei Noach UVanav VeIshto UNeshei Vanav Ito,” “And Noach went out, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives” (8:18).

Rashi commends the order in which Noach and his family enter the Teivah. Rashi states that during a time of sadness, a man should not be with his wife (7:7 ad. loc s.v. Noach UVanav). After the Mabul, Hashem blesses Noach’s family and commands it to regroup so that the world can grow anew: “VaYevarech Elokim Et Noach VeEt Banav VaYomer Lahem Peru URevu UMil’u Et HaAretz,” “And Hashem blessed Noach and his sons; and He said to them be fruitful and multiply and fill the land” (9:1). In his Unlocking the Torah Text, Rav Shmuel Goldin explains that Noach refused to return to his wife because he was in shock from the trauma of the world’s destruction. He was unable to accept that the world had changed. Due to this shock and trauma, Noach planted a vineyard and got drunk to escape his problems.

After the generation of the Mabul is completely destroyed, the next generation builds Migdal Bavel. Although the Pesukim blame the generation of the flood for stealing, the Pesukim do not articulate what was wrong with the generation which built Migdal Bavel. According to Rabbeinu Bachya (11:4), the generation of Migdal Bavel sinned by failing to fulfill the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the land.” Instead of growing and spreading, the entire generation decided to focus on a single tower.

Noach and his sons were wary of fulfilling the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the land.” They understood the possible downside of continuing the human race. Throughout the generations, Noach’s descendants feared propagating the world. Noach witnessed Hashem destroy nearly all of mankind and realized that there was a tremendous downside to mankind spreading out too thin.

The generation of Midgal Bavel was plagued by the fear that Noach had preached to them. This fear caused the people to desire a close community in which nobody could be harmed, despite the fact that this went against Hashem’s commandment. 

Belief in Hashem makes us stronger and braver. The more we listen to what Hashem commands us, the stronger we are when facing our enemies.

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