The ten generations between Noach and Abraham give testimony of the diversity inherent to humanity. We are referring here to a wide spectrum we call traits, qualities, talents, skills, etc. along with also diverse aspects, levels and dimensions of human consciousness. This array with all its potential is a reflection — within the limitations of material reality — of the infinite and endless diversity of God’s Creation.
We only need to look around to realize that we do not live in a dull world, and that we are here to relate with a multidimensional diversity. We can understand it as “I am diverse, hence I am” because we live simultaneously with thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions, and instincts.
Noach had three sons that our Sages teach that represent the foundations or roots of intellect (Shem), emotion (Japheth), and sensuality (Ham), with which we approach a large range of possibilities to be experienced as cornerstones of the building we call life. The Torah’s approach to life is unequivocally ethical, and the most adequate conductor to this approach is our intellect as the discerning power of consciousness.
Our Sages equate intellect to soul. Thus the more we discern about our circumstances in the material world, the more we live in consonance with our soul. In this sense, as they say, soul is to the body as the Creator is to the world. This means, among other things, that the soul is what connects us to Him.
Living and approaching life from the place of the soul is the only way to transcend the mirages and illusions of the material world. In a practical context, the soul encompasses the Divine attributes that the Torah instructs us to emulate. In sum, the more diverse and complex material reality appears to us, the more we need strong foundations to approach it in the most positive, constructive and uplifting ways and means.
Most of Noach’s descendants rejected the diversity God bestowed in the world. This rejection was also manifest by their previous generation who perished in the Flood as a consequence of corrupting life, and making it meaningless before God. It seems hard to believe that after such a short transition, the “new” humankind wanted to commit the same mistake by building the tower of Babel.
As a Divine creation, we humans have the potential to reach out to our Creator by following His ways and manifesting His attributes. Ego’s materialistic desires and illusions make us believe and feel that we are self-providing and self-sustaining entities, and they are the bricks of the tower that makes us believe and feel that we are our own god. Our Sages say that arrogance is the worst of kind of idolatry, because it does not allow one to see beyond himself. Egotism becomes the easiest way to deny anything different, and consequently diverse, from our own perception.
The worst transgression of the generations previous to Abraham was not defying God’s rule over His Creation and proclaiming man’s dominion over his own life and fate, but their denial of the diversity and multidimensional potentials of human life as the most precious Divine gift to us. A special gift to be appreciated, valued, cherished, rejoiced, and to be delighted with. In this sense, the worst sin is to deprive human consciousness of its potential to encompass and approach life and the material world with all their revealed and concealed diversity.
After the Flood, the Creator still endowed us with free will to choose not only from what we know as good and evil as it was so in the Garden of Eden, but from a myriad of possibilities within every aspect, level and dimension of consciousness. Thus, in the awareness of God’s love as our essence and true identity, we are fully able to discern and choose love’s ways and attributes amid the wide diversity of possibilities the material world offers us.
The generation of the tower of Babel came together united to circumscribe human life to a single ideological, cultural and social pattern; in “one language” able to turn man into a god for himself, and the rest of Creation was meant to be an accessory for man’s “greatness”. The Creator’s response was not more destruction, as with the Flood, but to give us the knowledge and awareness that every individual is as diverse as there are ways of conceiving, thinking, feeling, sensing and responding to the also diverse world where we live. Hence, the challenge for humankind is to also respond with an embracing, unifying and harmonizing approach to diversity as a Divine gift for us.
Among the many messages from this Biblical portion, we can learn that indeed humankind has the potential to be united around an ideology, paradigm or belief as we see it with politics, religion, and even fashion trends. Either for good, as we experience it when natural disasters happen and we rush to help our fellow men in need; or for bad with suffering of those who are victims of religious fanaticism or under totalitarian regimes that desecrate the sanctity of human life.
Time and again, the choice is ours. Either we build towers for ego’s desires and illusions of grandeur, or we build towers in our consciousness to be closer to the Creator. Towers not built with bricks of clay but with love to reach up to God’s love. This love is our essence and identity, with which we choose the goodness in the multifaceted diversity that He gave us. We must hear our Creator and reach out to Him with the expansion of our awareness of His love (represented by Jerusalem and its Temple) in the diversity of its aspects and dimensions:
“Broaden the place of your tents, and stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, stint not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For southward and northward you shall spread out mightily, your offspring will inherit nations, and they will settle desolate cities.” (Isaiah 54:2-3)