- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On October 23, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
The story of the Tower of Babel speaks for itself:
Everyone on earth had the same language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard.”—Brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar.— And they said, “Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for ourselves; else we shall be scattered all over the world.” The Eternal came down to look at the city and tower that humanity had built, and the Eternal said, “If, as one people with one language for all, this is how they have begun to act, then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach. Let us, then, go down and confound their speech there, so that they shall not understand one another’s speech.” Thus the Eternal scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the Eternal confounded the speech of the whole earth; and from there the Eternal scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)
Once upon a time, some time after the ark found land and the dove went forth into the world, the people traveled together in easy communication. They understood one another because they shared the experiences of life. Same language. Same words. They defined themselves in the community of one another.
But then, something began to happen. Some asserted themselves over others. They sought to elevate themselves and see their names as indications of their power. (Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, Covenant and Conversation, Noah) They ceased to define themselves as part of the whole and instead they determined they could be whole by themselves. Though Alexis De Tocqueville may have coined the idea of individualism, the Torah text strongly hints at the idea early on.
They built the tower in homage to themselves. God saw it was not good. Something had to change. The people lost the ability to communicate directly with one another. They became confounded in their capacity to articulate their thoughts coherently in conversation. They could only understand their way, their perspective. So they moved apart physically, psychologically, and spiritually with the result that they scattered and were disjointed. Their words and language and sense of self no longer united them but rather separated them from one another.
It may seem that the story ends there, but it is a set up for how the portion will end. Abram and Sarai come into view. With them also comes a pathway back to one another. A new language will unfold that brings them into relationship with the Divine and sets in motion the ability to bring people together and to enable them to hear one another to work for common goals of goodness, compassion, and justice.
It is an ancient story that gives us hope for the future.
- Tonight is a grand celebration as we officially install Alicia Stillman as our cantor during Qabbalat Shabbat. Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman will deliver the D’var Torah in her honor. There will be lots of beautiful music and some special guest surprises. There will even be a virtual oneg. (bring your own oneg food!). We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
- Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here
- Shabbat Mishpachah gathers HERE at 5:15.
- Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
- End Shabbat together with Havdalah HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE.
Connect with me HERE. I am interested in hearing your responses.