Perashat Noah 5778
Perashat Noah 5778Friday, October 20, 2017
Our perasha this week begins the account of the Tower of Babel with the pasuk, "Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words". A few pesukim later the Torah stresses that this was the underlying reason for the sin of the people of Babel. "And Hashem said, 'Lo! [they are] one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they have commenced to do'".
What was the sin of the builders of the Tower of Babel? What could be wrong with unity and having just one language?
Perhaps we can gain some insight by looking at the state of our world today. The development of the Internet has brought us closer to having "one language and uniform words," but it's not always in a good way, due mainly to social media. Social media is made up of many closed groups that are created by people who are "friended" or who are "following" and have common interests. As a result, true exchanges of ideas and profound discussion are all but gone.
Instead, we find so many cases of verbal aggression that those of us who do not wish to use belligerent language and believe in logic and reasoning, choose to abstain from participating in proper discussion. As such, public discourse becomes fixed in boxes. Issues become automatically sorted to questions of political "left" and "right". These closed social groups, whose purpose is self-justification and in which one only speaks in "one language and uniform words" and where opposing views are dealt with in a hostile way, have indeed become the norm.
The Torah's account of the Tower of Babel and the Midrashim that accompany it teach us of the great danger that awaits a society like this. One of the dangers is that power is given to the governing class in order to disrespect the concerns and lives of those who are not considered a partner or a slave to their ideals, such as building "a city and a tower".
The Talmud in Sanhedrin 17a teaches us that a "Sanhedrin where all the judges saw fit to convict the defendant, they acquit him". In our tradition, Talmidei Hakhamimare characterized specifically by the Mahalokot, the diversity of opinions, that they bring, and by doing so, our sages are "Marbim Shalom Ba'olam", increasing peace in the world.
Each of us can take a part in changing this dangerous direction of the world. By recognizing that those who disagree with us are, in fact, performing a great service, we create the possibility of re-examining our position, altering it when we are wrong, or to reaffirm our convictions when we are right.
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780