Friday, October 31, 2008

Meta d'var Torah on Parshat Noach

The beginning of the Tower of Babel story is Genesis 11:1: וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים.. The (old) JPS translates "And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech." If you assume that the Bible conserves words, the meaning of this verse must be nontrivial, after all, speaking the same language necessarily implies usage of the the same words.

I would propose that the "one speech" (d'varim achadim) is a hint that everyone was giving the same d'var Torah, resulting in the beginning of the end of the Babylonian project. The languages were confused so that nobody would understand each other and they might come up with some original ideas.

The story was placed in Parshat Noach as a warning to future generations. It didn't work.

PSA: Save the world! If you're giving a d'var torah this week, avoid the Rashi on the first verse of the parsha at all costs.

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