10 generations after the דור המבול, a new wicked generation arose, namely, the דור הפלגה – the generation of the dispersed. Besides for a handful of righteous people (including Avraham Avinu and Noach), a large percentage of the world came together – in unity – to wage war against G-d, as Rashi tells us: They came with one plan of action and they said, “G-d does not have the right to select for Himself alone the higher realms. We will go up to the firmament and wage war with Him.”
The Torah tells us וימצאו בקעה בארץ שנער וישבו בם – “they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.” If you think about it, this seems quite silly. After all, their goal was to reach G-d in heaven and wage war against Him, so why in the world would they start building their tower from a בקעה, a valley? Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to start building atop a mountain? They would already be at heads start in reaching the sky!
But that is not the only strange thing that these people did. The next passuk says: ויאמרו איש אל רעהו הבה נלבנה לבנים – “each man said to his fellow, “come let us make bricks”. Rashi explains: שאין אבנים בבל שהיא בקעה – for there are not stones in Babylonia because it is a valley. In the Artscroll footnote (6) it says, “Stones are commonly found in mountainous terrain, not in a valley.”
They made their own stones, when they could have used stones from a mountain. By not starting to build from on top of the mountain, they not only had to build a taller structure, but they also needed to make their own bricks.
Were these a bunch of fools? Maybe. But I would like to suggest that these “fools” had an agenda, a motive, and a plan, for doing what they did. Perhaps the people of the דור הפלגה were trying to send a message to G-d, namely, that we don’t want You. These people suffered from a severe condition of גאוה, haughtiness. Haughty people like to do everything themselves. They think they can conquer the world – perhaps, even G-d – without any assistance. They specifically built their tower in the valley and NOT on a mountain. You know why? Because had they used the mountain – a G-d made structure – they would have felt smaller since G-d “assisted” in their construction. As such, they deliberately chose to build their tower from the valley! These people wanted no connection with Hashem, absolutely none. They wanted to be the ones to build the tower “all by themselves.”
We can learn from anyone and everyone, and in this situation, we learn from people what not to do and how not to behave. Successful people don’t mind assistance from others, especially from Hashem. This teaches us the importance of being humble and realizing that we need assistance from Hashem in our lives in order to be successful.
May we train ourselves to say בעזרת ה' – with the assistance of G-d – throughout all of our endeavors.
Have a holy Shabbos! Ori Strum