<I>Noach</I>: Technology and Morality

There is nothing wrong with building "a city and a tower whose highest point reaches the sky." (Genesis 11:4) There is nothing wrong with, "'Let us make bricks and fire them.' And the bricks became their building blocks and the clay their [building] material." (ibid. 11:3)

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
There is nothing wrong with building "a city and a tower whose highest point reaches the sky." (Genesis 11:4) There is nothing wrong with, "'Let us make bricks and fire them.' And the bricks became their building blocks and the clay their [building] material." (ibid. 11:3) The Ramban comments on God's command to Adam, in Genesis 1:28 - "Fill the whole world and conquer it." - "He empowered [mankind] to rule the world and do as they wish with the animals, insects and crawling creatures; to build, to uproot, to quarry copper from its hills, and so forth."

In other words, we are commanded to make technological progress. Our sages commented on the verse "...that God created to make," that everything created in the first six days must be made [by man] into something better (Breishit Raba 11:7). For instance, bread is a more finished product than wheat, and cloth is more useful than flax.

Technology only becomes "wrong" when it becomes an end in itself. People forget that it is only a means by which to arrive at the desired end - man's moral improvement (see Akedat Yitzchak commentary to Genesis 11:1). Indeed, our sages relate that if a man fell from the Tower of Babel and died, no one paid any attention, but if a brick fell, they cried, "Oh, when will we get a replacement?" (Pirkei D'Rabi Eliezer 24)

A philosopher once remarked, "Railways and steamships don't impress me; that is not a sign of civilization." Human progress means moral and spiritual growth for humanity. True morality is Divine morality. If God is missing, man has missed the main point. This is the sin of the "dor hapalaga", who mistook the inconsequential for the essential (see Rashi on Genesis 11:19).

Our sages say that the atmosphere around the Tower of Babel causes forgetfulness. It makes us forget our Creator. Indeed, non-Jews are called "...the nations that forget God," (Psalms 9:18) while we are "a nation who knows our God." (Psalms 9:11)

[From Tal Chermon, vol. I; translated by Bracha Slae.]


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