In this week’s Parashah, after the tale of Noach’s survival of the colossal flood, we read about the construction of Migdal Bavel. The Pesukim state that the individuals doing this were of one tongue and decided to build a large tower in order to reach the heavens. Soon afterwards, God comes down, destroys the tower, disperses the people, and creates different languages for each region. It is commonly understood that man was trying to challenge God by reaching His domain, which warranted the Almighty’s fury. Yet the Pesukim don’t even seem to hint to human aggression; rather, it seems to quote the builder’s ambitious architectural aspirations. So why then did Hashem bring his wrath upon those who sought to simply build?
Immediately before the Revolutionary War, political philosophers, such as Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, appealed to the common man’s sense of freedom. Between Paine’s Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence, our nation yearned to be free from an oppressive and bureaucratic nation. What may baffle some individuals is the almost natural approach taken by these philosophers in their pursuit of freedom. Every man and woman who has fought for independence, from William Wallace of Scotland, to Joan of Arc from France, to the revolutionaries in the colonies, seemed to have a God-given instinct and drive to obtain their freedom. No other pursuit in history is accredited with the same awe and success as the acquisition of freedom.
The Netziv explains that the idea of “one tongue” refers to a restraint on personal mobility, both socially and physically. One tongue can also refer to the restraint on one’s liberties, such as freedom of speech and religion. When the act was ordered to build the tower of Babel, it served as a motif of dominance over others, a motif of aristocracy, perhaps. When this occurred, God came down and forcibly instilled the most essential stipulation that mankind has fought for: freedom. He removed the barriers and the restrictions, and brought upon the world its first taste of the everlasting ambrosia that satisfies every man’s thirst: liberty.
Our liberties in this nation are set in the Constitution. From our rights to free speech and free worship of religion, to our right of self-defense, to the rights of an individual in a court of law, we have certain rights that are not devised by man, but by God. Yet these freedoms do not come without a price. It is every man’s responsibility to protect these gifts from God, as without them, man is left in a state of misery.