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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Binding Heaven and Earth

"There are situations where the physical world is so developed that the light of God dims. There is a certain momentum that drives society for some time even as the value of life slowly disappears. When there is no spiritual yearning, the society loses its nature. Individual desire and demand take preference over social harmony, until the society reaches depression and disillusionment and all order is reversed." (Orot, p. 103)

The story of the tower of Bavel is the story of a forced relationship. Human beings trying to define the terms of their relationship with Hashem. The midrash (B"R 38:6) says that this generation saw things only in scientific terms. "Every 1656 years, the heavens collapse. Lets build a support system to prevent further collapse." In other words, they thought that God is part of a physical system that they understood. He was just another component in their physical existence.

This type of understanding of the world led to tremendous social evil. The midrash relates (Pirkei D'R Eliezer 24) "If a man fell off the tower, they did not notice. If a brick fell, they started crying saying 'when will we find another brick like that one?'" Without a spiritual component, human life is never worth more than the physical goals of the society. The brick is worth more than the builder.

In their effort to fuse Heaven and Earth physically, they corrupted the very foundations of their society. Ironically, their plan worked in a way. Hashem, kivyachol, comes down to earth in order to punish them (Bereishit 11:7). A connection was made but only to teach the generation a lesson. G-d ends up initiating contact on His terms. The lesson is simple, we connect Heaven and Earth not by building a physical structure to reach Heaven. Rather we must learn to access Heaven here on Earth. Hashem gave us a soul, a mission, a path to follow in the physical world. We must build a spiritual building in the physical world, not a physical building in the heavens.