1 And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed east that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another: 'Come, let us make brick and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
4 And they said: 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'
5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6 And the LORD said: 'Behold, they are one people and they have all one language and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withheld from them from that which they intend to do.
7 Come, let us go down and confound their language there, that they may not understand one another's speech.'
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore was the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
א וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ שָׂפָה אֶחָת וּדְבָרִים אֲחָדִים.
ב וַיְהִי בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.
ג וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ, הָבָה נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים וְנִשְׂרְפָה לִשְׂרֵפָה; וַתְּהִי לָהֶם הַלְּבֵנָה, לְאָבֶן וְהַחֵמָר הָיָה לָהֶם לַחֹמֶר.
ד וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶה-לָּנוּ עִיר וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם, וְנַעֲשֶׂה-לָּנוּ שֵׁם: פֶּן-נָפוּץ, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ.
ה וַיֵּרֶד ה' לִרְאֹת אֶת-הָעִיר וְאֶת-הַמִּגְדָּל אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם.
ו וַיֹּאמֶר ה', הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם, וְזֶה הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת; וְעַתָּה לֹא-יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת.
ז הָבָה נֵרְדָה וְנָבְלָה שָׁם, שְׂפָתָם--אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ, אִישׁ שְׂפַת רֵעֵהוּ.
ח וַיָּפֶץ ה' אֹתָם מִשָּׁם, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיַּחְדְּלוּ, לִבְנֹת הָעִיר.
ט עַל-כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמָהּ, בָּבֶל, כִּי-שָׁם בָּלַל ה', שְׂפַת כָּל-הָאָרֶץ; וּמִשָּׁם הֱפִיצָם ה', עַל-פְּנֵי כָּל-הָאָרֶץ.
Guiding Questions: (Potential answers in italics)
This is a difficult passage to understand. According to passuk vav (6), what problem does Hashem seem to have with the people of Bavel? (They are all as one, intending toward a negative goal)
What is surprising about this? (Isn’t unity good? We talk about Ish echad b’lev echad in other contexts. Why is it bad here?)
How might there be good unity and bad unity? (Good- for collective good, for betterment of people/ Bad- for negative consequences, also: where individuals get subsumed in the collective and lose their individual identities. Holocaust tried to do this to Jews- numbers, not names, heads shaven and wearing uniforms…)
How can we be sure we are engaged in positive unity? (Maintaining opportunities for differences, individuals, uniqueness, differing voices. Fully monolithic communities are problematic.)
Maybe share the different unique things without names with the full class? “This is who our class is.” If you see the answers work for this, great, but depending on the answers you get, it might not work.