Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If You Get Confused Listen To The Music Play ( Robert Hunter, Bill Kreutzman, Jerry Garcia - "Franklin's Tower")

With the Jewish Holidays behind us, we have returned to the mundane. Kids are now in school every day, my wife and I go to work every day and we all run errands every day. Most important is that I actually get to read the news and see the news every day. During the three weeks of Jewish Holidays, I always feel that I am unaware of what is happening in the world. Sure I am able to find out the sports scores, and if there was some huge news event, I would hear about it. As news/ political junkie, these three weeks are really a test in keeping up with what is occurring in the world.  In my home country, the news is spun in a certain way and as a result people talk past each other and nobody seems to listen whether it is about containing Ebola, or dealing with ISIS. As I watch the mayoral race in Toronto unfold, I see excerpts of mayoral debates and see that the candidates talk past each other rather than discuss issues. In Israel, sure Israelis talk to each other but there is no discussions between Israel and it Palestinian counterpart. In fact, Hamas claims that they are reconstructing some of their damaged tunnel.  All the talking past each other or at each other breeds confusion. Confusion seems to breed fear and once fear sets in, well that seems to breed some type of paralysis.
This Shabbat we read from Parsha Noach. This Shabbat we read from Parshat Noach. Comprised of two distinct narratives; both deal with the theology of chaos and confused boundaries. First we read the story of Noach, God’s disenchantment with creation and mankind’s behavior, the instruction to build the Teva (the Ark), the Flood as punishment for mankind’s unethical behavior, the covenant made between God and Noach and the resulting offering to God, and then an odd story about Noach’s drunkenness and one’s sons inappropriate behavior. The second distinct narrative is also about chaos and confused boundaries. This time mankind confuses boundaries and trying to build a tower up to the heavens. The result is that God scatters mankind across the earth by making mankind speak numerous languages and making communication difficult.
 While both narratives can conceivably stand alone; both narratives are related. As manifested in the previous in the story of Creation, God is a god of creation and order. Therefore, in order for God to destroy, order must be removed or chaos must become firmly entrenched.  Meivi et HaMabul Mayim AL HaAretz L’Shacheit Kol Basar Asher Bo Ruach Chayim Mitachat HaShamayim Kol Asher Ba’Aretz YigvahI will bring the flood of waters upon the earth  to destroy all flesh, in which is the breath of life from under heaven, and everything that is on earth shall die. Clearly from the text there must be other kinds of floods besides water, otherwise we do not need to be told that this particular flood is one that involves water. The message is that God will punish creation by instituting chaos for a period of time. Later in Chapter 11 as mankind begins building a tower up to heaven God becomes disappointed again. Vayomer Adoshem  Hain Am Echad V’Safah Achat L’Chulam V’zeh Hachilam La’Asot V’aAtah Lo Yibatzeir Mei’hem Kol Asher Yazmu La’AsotBehold the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be withheld from them which they have schemed to do. Hava Neirdah V’Navlah Sham Sfatam Sher lo Yishmu Ish  Sfat Rei’eihuCome let us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand on another’s speech. Instead of the flood of water, God created the flood of language and confusion the flood of a cacophony. From now on there will be a different type of confusion, a confusion of communication between people. No longer be a confusion between the boundary of God and Mankind.
Thousands of years late we still struggle with the results of this different type of confusion. However that is not to say that this confusion in communication cannot be overcome. The only way to overcome the confusion and cacophony of language is one simple act -listening. As an action, “listening” is an act that we all struggle with. Individuals struggle with it, politicians struggle with it, the press struggles with it and nations struggle with. I know that I struggle with listening.  Perhaps the difficulty and the struggle to listen effectively means that we have to put ourselves and our stuff aside even before we hear what the other person has to say. However if we can manage effectively, confusion would diminish and our responses might become more efficient and effective, both for individuals, communities and countries.
Rav Yitz

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