The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rebuilding Babel : A Redux in Blank Verse

I heard an interesting vart over Shabbos.
There are certain concepts in the weekly Torah portion that can only be properly understood in the light of chassidus.
וַיּאמֶר ה' הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם, וְזֶה, הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת; וְעַתָּה לֹא-יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת.

And the LORD said: 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.
Rashi gives three explanations of what they wanted to do -
To build a tower that would reach to the Heavens to wage war against G-d for taking the Heavens for himself, to speak against the One above [in general it would seem] or to build a Heavenly support to prevent a future flood.

Seemingly G-ds answer makes little sense in light of the tower's purpose. Was does G-d wish to prevent them from fulfiling their machinations? No matter how high the tower were to be built, it would never reach G-d . . . No building would actually serve a support stop the sky being ripped asunder once more by flood. What does G-d need to foil in their actions when seemingly they are vain in the first place?

If we take a closer look at the Biblical verse, we see the people built the tower "lest [they] be scattered upon the face of the entire earth" thus undoing their world "of one language and uniform words." Men no longer wanted to be scattered by future floods. Instead they wished to remain unified and uniform. They wished avoid the Divine duty of spreading out upon the land and make a dira b'tachtonim. Dispersion would lead to development and change in human culture, language, society and life.

Thus they built an edifice upon which all could congregate. The tower would serve as focal point - binding humanity together in a single cohesive society.
They wanted, to bring a modern analogy, to create a UN. Just as today many people falsely assume that true peace and unity is through the assimilation and acceptance of all cultures into one cohesive identity, so too then.

What they missed was that true unity best expresses itself by the vary nature of the differences - that the homogeneity brings to stagnation and ultimately failure. It's one of the earliest sophisms recorded in human history - it's the destruction of true distinction and honor, instead supplanting it with intellectually dishonest truisms fit only for feel good messages found in the fortune cookies of cheap Chinese take-out.


Before Gimmel Tammuz the Rebbe in many ways was our Migdol. Just like Michael the prince of water and Gabriel the prince of fire, kindness and severity, are two conflicting and diametrically opposed concepts, yet in their root above - under a supreme divine presence - they can coexist through their essential nullification to the same source . . . So too before Gimmel Tammuz the very existence of a Rebbe prevented the dispersion, conflict, debate and degradation of those around him (to some degree).

But when the Cats away, the mice will play . . .

Now we have our shlichus abroad . . . we have spread out fulfilling what those who built the tower tried to fight. We're doing what out tower so wanted us to do.
. . .
A word to the wise . . .
Of course, as we say in French, eino domeh hamoshel le'hanimshal, the parable can not be truly compared to the lesson we learn from it.
For while the dispersion and cultural dissonance of the Tower of Babel was something very much wanted Above, the same is not true in our case.

Our shlichus, our sojourn in all places abroad, is not to lesson our original goals and ideals - our native tongue. We must go out to the world around us . . . but we must pay heed to elevate it to us - not sink in the mire we wish to let others know they can be released from.
Like the soul . . . if it does not go down, then why was it created? And if it does not wish to return once below, what good will it do?


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Yossi said...

i heard a nice vart in the name of yossi jacobson how the medrash says what happened to the tower's parts: one third was destroyed, one third of it was buried, and comes above ground a little bit every so often, and one third is still on earth, and if you stand on it, every large thing looks like a blade of grass.
he connected this to the three main reasons they built the tower, and the lessons for the modern age... pretty cool

Dan - Israeli Uncensored News said...

Not only the UN, but they also wanted to build a city, all the way with skyscraper towers, instead of the rural life prescribed by the Torah

C said...

Thank you.

jewpublic club said...

YOSSI!!! can you please finish Rabbi jackobson's vart, it is very interesting!

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

I can't vouch for Rabbi Jackobson, but I heard something similar.

One third was destroyed. This is the fact that even today chutzpah klapei mailah does not exist on the level it did then.

One third buried and pokes up. Secular atheism is a relic of migdal bavel

the third that stays on earth is the fact that the world pursues unity but never gets there.