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Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha 5781

Parashat Hashavua: Who Were the Tower Builders? part II

Harav Yosef Carmel

Last week, we surveyed three tower builders – Nimrod, Sargon II (Assyria), and Nevuchadnetzar (Bavel). The common denominator is that each tried to turn into an idol, promote being eternal, and have dominion in the heaven as well as the land, in an effort to replace the King of Kings. All three were unsuccessful, but who ruined their game?

Parashat Lech Lecha begins with Hashem’s command to Avraham to “Go from your land” when he was 75 years old (Bereishit 12:4). We can find hints in previous p’sukim about what transpired when he was younger. The Torah tells us that his father, Terach, took his family, including Avraham, from Ur Kasdim towards the Land of C’na’an but settled in Charan (ibid. 11:31). Chazal teach us, as expounded upon by Rashi and the Ramban, that the name Ur Kasdim hints at a great miracle that occurred to Avraham. A midrash tells that there were 365 kings present before Nimrod when he confronted Avraham for breaking his idols. Avraham said to him, “You are not a deity, but a son of Kush.” Nimrod conferred with the kings, and it was decided that Avraham should be burnt. They tied him down and surrounded him with a big pile of wood, which they lit on fire. All of the kings could see that the fire did not affect him. Hashem said at that time that since Avraham had acted in His name, Hashem would personally go to save him.

It seems that this conference of kings was done in order to coronate Nimrod as king of the entire world and a deity. Nimrod went up to the top of the tower that he built, and Avraham opposed his actions. Nimrod had Avraham thrown into the fire, and Hashem came to save him. The masses were inspired by Avraham and the miracle that saved him, and the kings scattered. The unification of the world was cancelled, and everyone went to speaking his language. Avraham ruined Nimrod’s whole party.

More than 1,000 years later, Nevuchadnetzar tried the same ploy as Nimrod. He built a big tower and sat on its roof in front of all the kings under the rule of his empire, who were gathered to pronounce him king of the world. He did not try to get everyone to speak one language, as Nimrod had failed in that, but instead had them employ music as a different “international language.” Hundreds of musicians were in place around the tower, and at the time the conductor would give the prompt, all assembled would bow down and accept him as the king of kings and a deity (see Daniel 3:4-5). The punishment for non-compliance is reminiscent – the person is to be thrown into the fire.

Three descendants of Avraham Avinu – Chananya, Mishael, and Azarya – who served as officers in Nevuchadnetzar’s government, followed their forefather’s lead and stood up to the most powerful person of their time. They too were thrown into the furnace, and Hashem saved them as well. Everyone was shocked and Nevuchadnetzar’s plan was ruined. Chananya, Mishael, and Azarya were elevated, and Nevuchadnetzar repented to a certain degree.

Next week we will investigate what went wrong for Sargon II. In the meantime, we pray that we will see the world make progress in properly accepting Hashem’s dominion, as we pray: “Everyone who was created will understand that You created him.”
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