Parashat Noach describes the story of Migdal Bavel, the Tower of Babel. The Parashah states, “VaYehi Chol HaAretz Safah Echat UDvarim Achadim” (BeReishit 11:1), that the whole world is of one language and working collectively as one. In a rare, probably unique time period of the human race, everyone is united toward a common goal and speaks one dialect. This time period also enjoys the presence of Noach and his sons as well as Avraham, great leaders already among them to guide them toward Hashem. These seem to be ingredients for a utopia: leadership, unity, cohesiveness, and a common tongue among people living together in the same land. Everything seems perfect; what goes wrong?
Furthermore, the Pesukim describe technological progress. The Torah explains that the people get together, and then (11:3), “VaYomeru Ish El Rei’eihu Havah Nilbenah Leveinim VeNisrefa LeSreifah VaTehi Lahem HaLeveinah LeAven VeHaCheimar Hayah Lahem LaChomer” – they make bricks and mortar, a new technology, and start to build. This isn’t a seemingly noteworthy statement; why does it matter that they make bricks? How can the structure of their buildings have a meaning to us nowadays?
To answer this, we look toward the next Pasuk, where we see a hint toward their less-than-perfect society. The Torah states (11:4), “VaYomeru Havah Nivneh Lanu Ir UMigdal VeRosho VaShamayim VeNaaseh Lanu Sheim,” “They said, ‘Let us build a city and a tower with its head in the sky to make a name for us.” If they are so united, why do they want to make a name for themselves? This is the problem with the building of Migdal Bavel (on a Peshat level): it isn’t a fight against Hashem, it is a glory-seeking endeavor for personal advancement. The tower for which the bricks are used hints toward Gaavah, arrogance, and the desire to make a name for oneself, outweighing the positive nature of the new invention. The bricks could’ve been used to make better buildings, stronger walls, and sturdier floors for the betterment of mankind; instead, they are used for the advancement of individuals as part of the singular journey for personal honor. The mistake of the Dor HaFlagah is the disbandment of the common good for the beginnings of the competitive, fame-seeking, singularity we now live in. The lesson of the Dor HaFlagah is to avoid this trap and work together, to use our common goal of Torah observance, our universal language of Hebrew, and the spiritual leaders of the today to realize our potential not just as individuals but as a nation. We shouldn’t be like the Dor HaFlagah and let opportunities for national greatness pass us by; we should take advantage of everything we have because it’s there and ready. We just have to grab it.