Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. — Genesis 11:1
The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–55:5.
Most people have a plan for their lives. While it varies from person to person, we each have a script we’d like to follow. Sometimes life goes according to plan, but other times there are unexpected twists and turns. Then there are times when it feels as if our story has been totally rewritten in ways we don’t like. We are left wondering why God would so definitively wreck the plans we made for our lives.
In the latter half of this week’s Torah portion, we read about the Tower of Babel. The people of the time had a plan. As humanity began to grow following the flood, they settled in the plain of Shinar, built cities, and developed a united society. However, God didn’t seem to like their plans very much. He determined that He must intervene and confuse the people by changing their language so they could no longer be united and work efficiently together.
On the surface, it’s seems strange that God would take such action. From the information we’re given about these people, it seemed like they had a united, peaceful society. The Bible tells us, “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” Why would God interfere with that?
The Jewish sages provide some insight. They explain that the king at that time was Nimrod – the same king who ruled during the time of Abraham. According to tradition, King Nimrod persecuted Abraham for his rejection of idolatry and tried to kill him. Abraham was able to escape to Canaan where he found safe refuge and was able to start teaching the world about the one loving God, forever altering the course of history for the better.
However, if the plans of the generation who planned the Tower of Babel had succeeded – had they established and secured a united society under one king (Nimrod) – Abraham would have had nowhere to run. The whole world would have been against him! God knew that the world needed Abraham, and so He foiled the plans that ultimately would have harmed Abraham. God saved the world from itself!
Friends, when we make plans that will ultimately destroy us, God will destroy our plans. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us; it seems unfair and unjust. But as we read in Isaiah 55:8–9, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s plan is always the best plan – even when it comes at the expense of our own.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President