Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tower of Babel--Divisions and Conflict

First, if you are sensitive about religion, read no further today. This post is about my reactions to the text of a Bat Mitzvah reading today.

Ok, my niece had her big moment today, and, in the services each week, a portion of the Torah (the bible) is read, and it rotates throughout the year so that the entire book is read. This week's passages had to do with Noah, the flood and the tower of Babel. Having avoiding temples/synagogues since my own Bar Mitzvah, with the except of the events of my various family members, I had forgotten about this story.

So, I was quite struck not just with the tale but with the context today. The tale is that humans were cooperating so well but with so much hubris to build a tower that would reach the heavens that God made them speak different languages and scattered them around the globe. So, of course, my first reaction is: this is the biblical explanation for ethnic conflict, nationalism and war!

Then the first Rabbi had a short sermon where he focused on a set of events today to raise awareness about global warming. This was ironic, to me anyway, since any effort to combat global warming will require significant international cooperation--which, of course, is made much more difficult by the divisions amongst humanity, apparently created by God.

The second and more senior Rabbi followed this up with a tale about a doctor working in Gaza, and, once again, it seemed, if one follows the Tower of Babel story, that this too was the result the division of humanity along language (and other) cleavages.

As a result of my background (educational, that is), I cannot help but see these ironies and contradictions. Good thing they didn't let me speak at the service.

1 comment:

Steve Greene said...

Great points. There's really a lot of stuff in the Old Testament that defies ready explanation. I guess that's what the Talmud is for :-).