Anyone who knows me at all knows that much of my life has always revolved around music. I’ve played instruments since the age of five or six and am rarely more than a few feet from a guitar. Therefore it surprises many that, of all people, I’ve almost never walked around with a walkman/discman/ipod. Rather, I’ve always preferred the magnificence of the ambient sounds that always surround us. Be it made of instruments, voices in conversations, traffic noise, birds and dog-barks, construction sounds and, best of all, the wind and the rain, constantly changing as I walk through it, I feel that I’m always at the front row of a grand concert performed just for me!
I am fortunate, truly blessed, to live in a very heterogeneous neighborhood in Jerusalem. The main street, Emek Refaim, is filled with restaurants and cafes (admittedly a mixed blessing for someone who craves at least seeing other people at meals) that attract the full range of people who live in the area. At dinner just tonight, the crowd was largely Hebrew-speaking (including me as I try to not butcher the language too badly (how can I “butcher” anything in a dairy restaurant???) with a lot of English throw in (especially by the waitstaff responding to people like me trying to speak Hebrew in public…).
The table next to me was occupied by a threesome, a young couple (young to me being mid-thirties) and their friend, quietly speaking together in Arabic–something I wouldn’t have noticed had I not been seated so close. That they spoke Arabic wasn’t in itself notable, except as yet another addition to the soup of languages and conversations surrounding me. In fact the background music alternated between Hebrew, English and, occasionally French contemporary songs. As delicious a combination of sounds as there were of flavors on my plate!
Shir HaShirim Raba, a midrash on Shir HaShirim, The Song of Songs, states (3:10), that “Everything God created He created only for his own Honor/Glory/Purpose”. Since the Creator’s purpose in creating our world with us in it is for us, all of us, all Am Yisrael and everyone else, to partner with him in perfecting this world purposely left undone to leave room for us, all humanity to share in being creators.
The common Jewish explanation for the multitude of languages spoken on this planet based on the episode of the “Tower of Babel” is usually presumed to be punishment for arrogance; lowly man once again aspiring to be God! The immediate result, was chaos which led to violence. People would throw each other off the tower out of frustration of not being understood. From here, each clan, each language group migrated to their own land, separate from all the others, and from this point on, rather than being able to collaborate, each, in enhanced isolation, will only look after their own interest. As will each individual within each clan. From an ideal of unity, even though misplaced, we become isolated, atomized and lost.
The traditional repair to this rip in ideal reality seems to imply that when, in the future, we’ve resolved the war-based model into one of cooperation, we’ll return to a uni-culture, singly focused to refine and enhance the connection between Man and God. We will, once again, all speak “one language, one speech” (Breishit 11:1)
There is, however, another possibility. In a state of full Geula, final Redemption (not just of the Jewish people, although we remain central in bringing this massive tikkun, change/repair to the world, all of the diversity, represented by the multiplicity of languages, reflecting an almost endless spectrum through which to see the world, will redefine itself. No longer referring to sinat chinam (endless hate and violence) but truly as a “Symphony of Voices”, the full expression of every neshama (soul) making up reality, joining and joined in ultimate perfection, each fragment, each individual, now vibrating with The All.