Midreshet Amit


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Stones vs Bricks

By: Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg

I heard a wonderful idea from Rabbi Tzvi Shiloni on the Tower of Bavel. After the flood, the nations began to spread out and diversify. But this scared the people in Bavel - "lest we be dispersed across the whole earth". In order to lock the people into one place, they built a city with this massive tower. In their efforts, individuality and diversity were negative. It was all about the ‘greater good’. The Midrash describes that the men of Bavel would cry if a brick fell but would not pay attention if a man was injured or killed in the building process. It was only the collective, not the individual, that counted.  If you pay attention, this is hinted to by the very building material used in construction. Instead of building with stone, which was common up to that point, they chose to use bricks instead - "come, let us make bricks and burn them in fire". 


What is the difference between stones and bricks?


Stones each have a unique shape. Effort and creativity is required to join them together. Bricks on the other hand are uniform and lack a unique shape. A city of stones has incredible beauty - think the Old City of Jerusalem. A city of bricks is characterless and has a gray communist feel. The people of Bavel didn’t just use bricks. They wanted the people to be bricks. To conform. To be the same. Avraham Avinu, was rescued from Ur Kasdim - the furnace of the Babylonians. He was thrown into the furnace by Nimrod, to quite literally be turned into a brick. But Avraham, who was a stone par-excellence, emerged intact and became the cornerstone of all human development.