The Technological Delusion by Yaakov Rubin


As we get deep into Parshat Noach, we read about the Dor HaPlagah, the generation of the dispersal.  The Pasuk states (11:4), “Come, let us [the members of the Dor HaPlagah] build us a city, and a tower with its top reaching in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.”  Rav Yissochor Frand takes this Pasuk and leads us through the sequence of events leading up to it.

The Torah writes (11:3), “And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and fire them in the flames,’ and the bricks served them as a stone, and the lime as mortar.”  Rashi offers an interesting bit of information: he explains that they needed bricks because there are no stones for building in Babylon.  In the very next Pasuk, the Torah tells us (11:4), “And they said, ‘Come, let us build us a city, and a tower…and let us make a name for ourselves.’”

The Torah specifically mentions that they made bricks, a seemingly pointless and unnecessary comment.  Since the Torah does not waste words, it would appear that this was somehow important in the sequence of events.  They made bricks, and then they built a tower to do battle with Hashem.  What is the connection?

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld explains that the manufacture of bricks was a technological breakthrough of major proportions.  For the first time, people were able to manufacture their own building materials, even if nothing was readily available from nature.  Hence, people fell into the self-delusion of saying (Devarim 8:17), “My strength and the power of my hands made all this wealth.”  They became drunk with the idea that they were the masters of their own destiny, and they decided that the sky was the limit, literally!  And all of this because of a few bricks.

Of course, this message is all too relevant in our own day and age.  Modern science is advancing at an incredible rate, performing feats previous generations would never have thought possible.  Now more than ever, we have to be careful not to get carried away with our achievements.  Although we are correct to take pride in what we have been able to do, we still must always recognize the Source of all our wisdom and the Divine control of human events.

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