“And Hashem saw the land and behold it was corrupted.” (6:12)
This is idol-worship: when one sees anything other than Hashem alone because the main essence of kefira/heresy is in the heart. Because of this, Yechezkel 14:5 says “In order to grasp Beit Yisrael in their heart” because the main essence of emuna is in the heart.
While hishtadlut is a necessary conduit for our spiritual rectifications, we still need to live in the paradox that despite our actions and thoughts, everything is still from Hashem. The moment we let go of our emuna that Hashem is behind everything, we allow an opening for all sorts of miserable things to enter: gaava, anger, stinginess, hate, depression, and so on, which can ultimately lead to the worst transgressions.
Now we get to some stuff that very much describes our world today:
"And it was that all the land was one language and of common purpose." (11:1)
The Kli Yakar quotes Gemara Sanhedrin “The gathering of reshaim is bad for them and bad for the world; the dispersion of reshaim is good for them and good for the world. And regarding tzaddikim, the exact opposite is true."
Chazal defines reshaim as people who intentionally do bad things, with the Malbim defining them as people who intentionally sin against both Hashem and other people. The Kli Yakar explains that when reshaim get together, they think up bad advice for others while at the same time getting into fights with each other. This is because they don’t share the same goals. He gives examples: One desires wealth and honor, another desires an abundance of food, while another desires an abundance of hanky-panky. And so on.
The paths of evil are many and the path of good is only one. And this is because each person has his own desire and aim to be superior to his fellow, and this quality is certainly widespread among our nation….But the gathering of tzaddikim is good because its purpose unites them because they have only one purpose and they are united by it as it says in Tehillim: “Shalom rav l’ohavei Toratecha – abundant peace to lovers of your Torah” – but not to those who mainly love the external purpose first.
The Kli Yakar explains that the people claimed to want to build the Tower in order to preserve their unity. They realized that as people disperse, they tend to form countries, which then go to war against each other; the Dor Haflagah wanted to preserve the brotherhood and unity they were experiencing. They wanted the Tower as a rallying point because “every man has the desire and the aim to come to dwell in a big city, a place of gathering for many people.” He further explains that had they not declared, “to make ourselves a name,” their plan would have worked because the erection of the Tower would have been for the purpose of peace. But in making that declaration, they revealed their underlying intent for building the Tower: to make a name for themselves.
In other words, it was about self-aggrandizement.
Needless to say, we see this today. The Western world blathers on about peace and unity while Islam constantly promotes its ideal of unity and brotherhood among Muslims. But the Western world’s brand of “brotherhood” has actually been used to wage war on the human mind and soul while the Islamic brand of “brotherhood” has been used to wage war on the human body. And behind the scenes, the same people who blather on about peace and unity among themselves are actually at each other’s throats. In the Western world, there is no real friendship among leaders beyond using each other for personal advancement while in the Muslim world, assassinations even among brothers who share the same mother and father, have always characterized Muslim rulers.
"And Hashem said, "Behold! They are one people, and they all have one language" (11:6)
Hashem decided that they will fall into their own trap. While they claim to build the Tower to preserve peace and avoid war, Hashem will cause them to war among each other in this pseudo-utopia of brotherhood and peace.
But if everyone will gather into one place to escape a war between one nation and another, then they’ll end up falling into one even bigger war, and that is an internal war, with one man’s sword in his fellow, because the gathering of reshaim is bad for them.
After they said, “We'll make a name for ourselves,” they showed that each person will want to rule over his fellow and to be higher than him as is common among groups that perform all their actions for the sake of recording one's name.
The Kli Yakar points out that the building of the Tower was actually the beginning of their end. Once they were gathering into one big city, their innate desire for self-aggrandizement would start to express itself.
If their intent is to make a name for themselves, then it follows that each one will want to be the ruler and prince of this great city in order to for his name to go out throughout the entire world and through this, arguing will increase among them.
The Kli Yakar now writes as if Hashem is speaking:
"They planned to make a status symbol dedicated to peace, so also I will also plan, albeit in direct opposition to what they planned. They planned to preserve peace by gathering together, thinking that their gathering together was good for them, and I see that peace can only be preserved through their dispersal because dispersal is better for them than being gathered together."
And so it says, “Let’s descend and confuse their language” because through this, they will be forced to disperse and then it will be good for them and good for the whole world because there is never peace between people whose entire goal is to make a name in the land and those of our nation prove this point.
….In this, they showed to what point the minds of Hashem’s people reach, to the point that even the Shechina isn’t as important as oneself….and now come and see how lowly this middah is. Didn’t it destroy two Beit Hamikdashes? And it is the reason for the delay of the building of the Third Temple until those high on pride will be removed from our midst and there will remain “a humble and poor nation who will take shelter in the Name of Hashem.” (Tzephania 3:12)
Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntschitz (1550-1619) lived in Bohemia (which is today Poland and Czechoslovakia). He served as rabbi and dayan and wrote several books, the most well-known being his commentary on the Chumash known as the Kli Yakar.
This is my own translation and any errors are also mine.