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Are there any authentic Jewish sources that claim that the Tower of Babel was a spaceship? I remember as a child being told by somebody that Rav Eibishitz had written something to this effect.

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3 Answers 3

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See here for a full explanation of Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz's idea of the generation attempting to build a tower so high it would reach beyond the gravitational pull of the Earth. Then, they planned to have a boat-like vessel atop the tower to be carried up from the Earth's winds to the moon, where they would no longer need to fear torrential rain. (Rav

enter image description here

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  • This seems to be describing a Space Elevator more than a spaceship, but good find. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 17:08
  • The way I understood it was that it was a very high launching pad.
    – robev
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 17:11
  • @robev which is exactly what a Space Elevator is - a very high launching pad whose top is already moving at orbital velocity. Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 14:41
  • Which sefer is that picture from?
    – Shababnik
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 22:28
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I've heard people reference Sanhedrin 106b when mentioning it, although there doesn't seem to be any link between the two.

א"ר ארבע מאה בעיי' בעו דואג ואחיתופל במגדל הפורח באויר

Rav said, 'Doeg and Achitophel asked four hundred questions about a tower that floats in the air'

Rashi gives a number of explanations, among them:

במגדל הפורח באויר - לעשות כישוף להעמיד מגדל באויר

About a tower that floats in the air - to perform kishuf to make a tower float in the air.

I suspect that this was the source of the idea.

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  • Migdal throughout mishnayos and talmud means a type of a box. Along with a shida and a teiva.
    – user6591
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 18:24
  • This doesn't seem to be referring to the Tower of Babel, as you mentioned.
    – ezra
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 21:09
  • @ezra That's right. But I have heard people quote it when mentioning that the tower of Bavel was a rocket.
    – Y K
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 17:05
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Since rocket ships are a modern invention, the concept of "building up to heaven" or "being able to go to heaven" is a spiritual or theoretical idea. It is like "aron haporeich ba-avir" (a flying box) in the talmud. As a result, the meforshim do not deal with this on the level of a rocket ship.

a tower whose top shall reach unto heaven

is an expression of rebellion against Hashem, not a physical statement.

Rav Hirsch points out in Noach 11:4 that it means for the glorification of the leader and it is something that will be recognized by everyone and forever. It will be a process that will involve the entire society for generations. This is like the pyramids of Egypt (or the ziggurats of Bavel or the cathedrals of Europe).

The full quote is too long to put here so I have just summarized it.

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