Tower of Babel

Oct 11, 2015

וַיְהִי כָל־הָאָרֶץ שָׂפָה אֶחָת וּדְבָרִים אֲחָדִים׃

Everyone on earth had the same language and the same words.

vai-HEE khol ha-A-retz sa-FAH e-KHAT ud-va-REEM a-kha-DEEM

Genesis 11:1

וַיִּהְיוּ יְמֵי־תֶרַח חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיָּמָת תֶּרַח בְּחָרָן׃

The days of Terach came to 205 years; and Terach died in Haran.

Genesis 11:32

The Torah now tells a tragic tale, set just ten generations after the flood. All the people of the Earth speak a common language, and opt to use this unity to build a tower to heaven. Their expressed concern: they do not wish to be dispersed across the Earth.


God observes the tower, and decries the abuse of such unity. He causes confusion among them by changing the languages they speak, thus ending communication. The people then are scattered and dispersed across the land.


The Israel Bible makes the connection between the word for language, safa, used in our portion, and the same word in the book of Zephaniah. There (Zephaniah 3:9), God promises he will one day change the languages of the world that everyone shall speak a safa b’rurah, a clear or pure language, which the Sages identify as Hebrew.


The portion ends by listing the ten generations which have passed between Noah and the next hero who will take center stage: Abraham.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God was so opposed to the people of the Earth building their tower and staying together?

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