Leib Tropper: Lessons from the Tower of Babel

A devout rabbi with a legacy of education and outreach, Leib Tropper founded Kol Yaakov Yeshiva and Torah Center in Monsey, New York. Although he has retired from congregational service, Leib Tropper continues to promote the Hebrew faith and religious and ethnic tolerance through activism and teaching.

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis reinforces the folly of man in trying to rival the glory and power of G*d. In this well-known tale, the people of the world merged their resources and their talents to build a tower that would reach to Heaven. In doing so, they believed they would demonstrate their equality to the Lord while also enabling them to stay together and build a greater society that could rule the earth; G*d punished them by destroying the tower and scattering them into 70 different tribes that would exist in separate parts of the world with different languages, making it difficult for them to understand each other.

The lessons in the Tower of Babel story include the foolhardiness of the sin of pride, which drives a wedge between G*d and His people. As a result of the arrogance exhibited by the people, the Lord sent them into far-flung regions that not only disconnected them from each other but also from Him. While the egotism of the people resulted in a severe punishment, however, many people recognize a second lesson in the story of the Tower of Babel. The unity shown by the people in developing a strategy for the tower and building it proves that unity affords tremendous promise for humankind. Without the taint of pride and with less selfish motives, this kind of accord offers the potential for a return to understanding between disparate peoples.

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