The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose (Bereishit 11:1).
The above passage is an apparent praise of the generation that built the Tower of Babel, in that the people were united. But, when we take a closer look at them, we see that under Nimrod's leadership, they were united in a double purpose of evil. First, as their leader's name indicates (Nimrod in Hebrew means "we shall revolt"), the people of Babel united in erecting the Tower of Babel as a declaration of revolution against Hashem. Second, they were united in their opposition to the tzaddik of the generation, our forefather Avraham (Abraham), the world's lone monotheist. Nimrod threw Avraham into the same fiery furnace that was used to produce bricks for the Tower of Babel. As such, the construction of the Tower of Babel and the attempt to kill Avraham were simultaneous acts of the same evil generation revolting against Hashem.
According to Rashi and the Midrashic texts, Avraham was thrown into the fiery furnace in the Hebrew year of 1972, when he was 24 years old. Hashem put an end to the folly of Babel by confusing the languages and scattering the people of Babel across the face of the earth a mere 24 years later, in the Hebrew year of 1996 when Abraham was 48 years old. To be exact, we find that the unity and "common purpose" of the evil generation lasted only for a few decades.
In reality, as we learn in retrospect, there was no unity at all among the different peoples; on the contrary, they hated each other. Yet, they united in their double purpose of evil to revolt against Hashem and to oppose the generation's one true tzaddik, Avraham. As the old adage says, even two dogs that hate each other will unite to fight the wolf.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev
teaches an eye-opening principle (see Likutei Moharan I:67.6
) and says, "When the evil unite, they fall quickly."
With Hashem's loving grace, the following parable will help us understand Rebbe Nachman's principle:
Dimitri was a simple Ukrainian peasant who made a meager living growing potatoes and vegetables. One day, one of the Czar's agronomists passed through Dimitri's village and inspected the fields. Dimitri never saw an official red and gold buggy in his life; so, when one approached his property, he ran to greet the visiting dignitary.
The agronomist cast a glance at the fields, and turned up his nose. "Don't you simpletons know that the fertile black soil of the Ukraine should be giving four times the yield that you get? No wonder you people complain about the Czar's taxes! From the looks of this field and your sparse yellowish potato plants, you won't be getting more than a hundred kilograms to the dunam. With a bit of chemical fertilizer, you'll get five times the yield."
"Where do I get chemical fertilizer?" asked the peasant.
"Ride into Vinnitza," said the agronomist. The agronomist wrote clear instructions for the peasant: "Go to this address; buy a sack of urea, a sack of phosphate, and a sack of potash. Spread ten kilograms of each on every dunam of land. The fertilizer is ridiculously cheap, and you'll see a yield of no less than half a ton per dunam."
Dimitri did exactly as he was told. He took the note from the agronomist, hooked up his horse and wagon, and rode into Vinnitza. To his delight, he discovered that the chemical fertilizers were actually cheaper that what he thought. He figured that if the agronomist's recommendations would increase his potato yield five-fold, then by doubling the amount, he'd get a ten-fold yield of a whole ton per dunam! He'd be rich!
Happily, Dimitri spread twice the amount of chemical fertilizer on his field than the agronomist recommended. Rather than harvesting an increased yield, he burned his plants and was left with virtually nothing.
Dimitri complained bitterly to a wise neighbor. The neighbor, amused at the level of Dimitri's ignorance, said: "Silly Dimitri! Chemical fertilizers are caustic! At low levels, they serve a good purpose, but when you use too much, they destroy everything. Next time, do as you're told!"
* * *
The evil of the world resemble chemical fertilizers – a scattered few serve a purpose, but too many destroy the earth.
The Midrash tells us that the evil serve a purpose in that the acts of the righteous are much more apparent when compared to the acts of the evil. In that respect, it's actually beneficial to have a few evil people around so that we can all see the tremendous difference between the righteous and the evil. A few evil people set us an example of how not to be. Yet, when the evil grow in numbers and join forces in mass destruction, they hasten their own end.
How true are the words of the tzaddik! To this very day, we see a massive coalition of evil that is fighting against Hashem's faithful. This shouldn't alarm or discourage us. Indeed, in light of Rebbe Nachman's teachings, when the evil join forces, they hasten their own end and actually pave the way to the full redemption of our people, speedily and in our days, amen.
(You are cordially welcome to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's website and daily web journal "Lazer Beams" at www.lazerbrody.net