Friday, 24 October 2014

Reading About the Tower of Babel While Living in the Multi-Cultural Land of Babble

Shalom Girls & Boys:

I don't usually talk about the Torah portion of the week, but I couldn't help notice Chapter 11 of Genesis in this week's section and connect it to where I live – ISRAEL. The Torah section I'm talking about takes place after the flood, after Noah and his family left the ark.

At that point in time everyone spoke the same language and understood each other. They decided to work together and build a very impressive skyscraper. The builders were merrily working their way to the top when God saw what they are doing, and he wasn't happy. Earlier, when their forefathers – Noah's family – left the ark, God told them to multiply, spread out and fill the earth. Now they were building a tower reaching the sky and staying together in the same place. To make sure they fulfill the commandment, God created total confusion by switching each one's language to a different tongue (so to speak). Everyone became discombobulated. They began scratching their heads, not understanding what the next one was saying. They stopped building. Each took his/her family and went on their merry way, filling the earth and multiplying.

So why did I think about modern-day Israel? Because, hey – we've reversed the situation. We're nine million people speaking the same language – Hebrew – while at the same time speaking the language of our forefathers. So you've got families from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand who speak English to each other and their Anglo friends – and in the same accent of the state/region they came from. Then you've got lots and lots of Russians who continue speaking Russian between themselves, just like the Ethiopians continue speaking Gez. And the French? They would NEVER think of giving up speaking French. The same goes for the Italians, Swiss, Germans and you name it. We're one little country with a lot of languages being spoken. BUT we all speak Hebrew between each other when the different cultures mix.

Isn't that just like where you live? Think about your Italian, Greek and Chinese neighbors – or their parents and grandparents. What language do they speak to their family? Not English. But when they speak to you, it's only in English.

Hey! You know what? Sounds like we have a lot in common.