In this week’s parsha we hear of the first two interactions Hashem has with humans outside of the Garden of Eden, namely the Flood and the Tower of Babel. Both the story occupying most of Bereishit (The Garden of Eden) and the Tower of Babel have received almost unprecedented amounts of attention, but I was struck by a similarity between the two simply on the basis of the language used in the text. Hashem says, with reference to the Tree of Life: “The Man is like one of us, knowing Good and Evil; and now, lest he extend his hand and take also from the Tree of Life, and it from it, and live forever. And Hashem sent them from the Garden of Eden…” (3:22-3, translation mine). In our parsha, with reference to the Tower of Babel under construction, Hashem says: “They are one nation with one language for everyone, and this [the Tower of Babel] is what they have begun. Now, nothing that they set out to do with be out of their reach” (11:6, translation mine). From a human perspective, both of the things that Hashem stops humanity from attaining in these passages seem to be extremely good things, of not the ultimate good things: immortality and unlimited aspirations. Why, then, does Hashem withhold them? What is wrong with desiring to live longer and to fulfill all that we strive after on this Earth?
Is God in the way
Of our greatest hopes and dreams
To benefit us?