A Challenge To The Rabbanut, The 3-Weeks, 5778

There’s a concept in civil law called Relief. The idea is that when someone suffers damages they should be compensated, as best as can, at least partly, for their losses. Ideally, the one who caused or profited by the damages should be the one makes it good. However, that’s not always possible and often, as we move in time away from the original injury, it’s harder and harder to determine guilt. Also, as time goes on, one who caused the damages might no longer be in a position to recompense the original victim or to return the situation to what it was earlier. In actual law suits, one might need decide who, in the present, can offer the best solution even if he had nothing to do with the original damage. One often finds a situation where the original villain, even when he willingly admits his guilt and even his desire to “make things right” is in no position to and must then walk away free. In other words, it’s very rare that one can actually put the toothpaste back into the tube and completely undo the damage that has been done.

Our early sages, responding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, leading to our 2,000-year-and-continuing (hopefully coming to an end as we live in the era of Kibbutz Galyot, the (in)gathering of the Exiles), associated these tragedies with several other national disasters that occurred generally during these months and instituted a number of rituals not so much to “commemorate”, these Divine Punishments, but to actively get each of us started on our personal and communal Tshuva, Roads to Return.

Spread throughout the world, for the most part as, largely, powerless minorities, our sages innovated communal fasting and quasi-mourning, activities unlikely to call too much attention to ourselves. We needed, it was assumed, to keep our heads down. Based on the idea that The Creator would have punished us all only if He were mightily provoked by our behavior, combined with our holy awareness that we eat and are otherwise rewarded by The Creator only when we’re not making things worse, communal fasting was, at those time and in those situations, seemed an appropriate and, perhaps an effective tikkun (a repair of in the spiritual realm, where the root of most problems can be found and addressed). Also, we could quietly, wherever our communities were found, try to express our remorse and hopes to change without antagonizing our often hostile neighbors. Needing to keep our heads down, what better format than early morning and late night prayers and study?

Nonetheless, I can’t help notice that the reasons for our long galut, exile, never included overeating or even ignoring the laws of kashrut. Fasting and refraining from joy may well help us focus our attention on those things we did do wrong, but beyond that it’s hard for me to see what one thing has to do with the other. (Of course, I accept the rabbinic teaching that when Chazal offers us a reason for deep reality, they pass over in silence ten other (presumably more profound and subtle) equally or more valid reasons.)

Nonetheless, it seems that the avenue of relief afforded us has little to with returning us to “God’s Favor”, restoring our position in Eretz Yisrael and performing deeds and actions, where acting as Or L’Goyim, a Light to the Nations, we help lead not just the Jewish People, but all Creation. In other words, “what does “A” have to do with “B”? More important, is there an “A'” which might be more directly, or at least obviously lined, to “B”?

No longer needing Halacha to be so “defensive”, to protect us from our pain of always being The Other and our subsequent desires to remove all boundaries, perhaps at this point in our history we no longer need to worry so much about keeping our heads down, our profile low. At least those of us living in Eretz Yisrael can direct our desires to conform to conform to the dominant culture of Eretz Yisrael!

For example, I’d like to propose that, organized and presented by the Haredi communities, a series of sing-along concerts throughout the country. With the various “ultra-orthodox” opening their doors and inviting their less observant brothers and sisters into their world to share a joyous occasion, both reminds us of the fault (forgetting that we are actually brothers and sisters) which led to the Exile itself and directly undo the damage we wrought with our narrow intolerance towards large percentages of our very own people, that very Sinat Chinam that underlies all these tragedies we’ve endured and are enduring.
Not to let the “progressive” wing of our people off scot-free, there has long been an equal blast of sinat chinam towards the charedim and others condemned for being outmoded, It might be nice to see their rabbis and organizations reaching out to orthodox and charedi rabbis and communities to share some of their insights, inspiring rituals. It would benefit many the progressive Jew to discover and experience the architectural magnificence developed in centuries of ongoing talmudic study, of the ultimate development of inferential reasoning, all aimed not at some abstract concept of “truth”, but at justice and compassion, even when these goals require repudiating the philosophical in favor of the humanistic. It would amaze many in both camps to see the tremendous amount of shared values, principles and, at least in their origins, ritual. We are, after all one family, albeit outspread and complex.

Perhaps we can reach a point where it’s less important where the teaching or prayer came from, but how effective it is now in bringing us to a closer relationship, a deeper understanding, a more transformational experience of God. Where if fasting has any value at all, it’s to remind ourselves and our Creator that we acknowledge past error and dedicate ourselves, communally as well as individually, to be more welcoming of the other, the insights and experiences we’ll never personally have, but which are necessary to create a full view of what sort of society we ca create and sustain. If that’s not a good working definition of Ahavat Chinam, perhaps it’s the very next step once we’ve, hopefully, achieved it.

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Reclaiming Tikkun Olam

Whenever non-orthodox/non-traditional streams of Judaism, or at least representative organizations within them, act exceptionally aggressive towards the orthodox, certain elements within the orthodox “side” reacts by discrediting the progressive movements for being “not real Judaism”. Frequently, since many of their leaders and spokesmen (the non-orthodox), who aren’t themselves very committed to or convinced of the value of Torah and Mitzvot, substitute Tikkun Olam, literally the repair of the universe, for our other, often Biblical, responsibilities. The “orthodox” spokesmen then condemn tikkun olam as not only non-Jewish but often absolutely anti-Jewish.

After a recent tasteless speech at the Hebrew Union College graduation by the novelist Michael Chabon, who insulted everything from observing mitzvot  to marrying-in (i.e., preserving Jewish heritage for at least one more generation), the usual bloggers and speakers began their anti tikkun olam rants. Tikkun Olam isn’t Jewish. Social Justice, especially when the victims and perceived victims are not Jewish and the solutions have nothing to do with Mitzvot or Torah, or even Tefilla (prayer), supports values which attack Judaism. The movement is often anti-Israel, promotes anti-Jewish-family values (i.e. seems to value the “rights” of the ever-growing ladder of sexual identifications much more than those of “traditional” individuals and families, etc.)

Wait a minute!

Of course Tikkun Olam, at least in it’s basic concept, it not only Jewish, but it gives great insights into many Torah values. It can rally us to to the right thing when, otherwise, we might just remain indifferent. It describes the answer to that basic, almost unanswerable question that so often faces us of  “why”.

What those Jews who never had the privilege of learning Torah L’Shma, Torah for it’s own sake, is the way we’ve defined the words Tikkun and Olam, in a Jewish way, not based on Greek or Latin translations of the Bible (what we refer to as Torah).

Yes, tikkun, l’takeyn, means repair, to fix. Olam, while, of course, it does contain the meaning “world” also means eternal (and thus time and through this consequences of our actions). A traditional Jew knows that our approach to Tikkun has nothing to do with what “problem”we might see, and adjusting what we perceive to be “off”, but rather, and exclusively, within the realm of Torah and Mitzvot. What’s missing in the world, perhaps displaying the symptoms that enrage and energize us, is a set of unperformed mitzvot, spiritual acts designed to maximize the underlying structure of reality which, in turn, hosts what we in our limited capacity, call reality.

Of course, to use a contemporary example, children separated from the parents is a terrible wrong in the world. But, perhaps rather than demonstrating or posting of facebook or giving political speeches, a tiny group of Jews somewhere, sitting together and chanting Tehillim, Psalms, or studying an obscure tractate of Talmud really fixes the problem. Much like the western symptoms-based approach to medicine, this limited definition of Tikkun Olam actually prolongs the problem.

A timely story is told in this week’s Torah reading, Balak. Bill’am, the evil prophet and curse-for-hire hitman can’t understand his donkey which first walks him into a fence, then into a stone wall, each time further injuring his foot, and finally laying down in the middle of the road. Bill’am’s reaction and “solution” is to beat the donkey, to beat it again and to beat it into an inch of its life.

Like many contemporary, rational humanists who already know all that they need to know, all Bill’am knows is that his donkey is stubborn, willful, and driving him to murder. Bill’am, the “expert” with no need for God or Torah doesn’t see, and thus as no idea that what continues to block him from carrying out “his” plan is God Himself, working as an “angel”, but rather just a rebellious, blind, evil donkey.

Likewise, when we begin to understand that the real causes behind all the imperfection in our world are the duties, jobs and responsibilities assigned to us but yet undone, imperfection awaiting tikkun, we’ll have a chance to both solve the immediate problems that so enrage us now as well as to bring the world to a place where, eventually, all if complete and perfect, perhaps not exactly by our criteria, but by The Creator’s.

Shabbat Shalom

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Transformation–Hanging By A Single, Broken, Guitar String

For almost two millennia no Jew would marry in the days between Pesach and Shavuot (Passover and Pentecost). Without the Holy Temple “alive” and functioning, we are in a state of perpetual mourning, of minimal functionality.

Obviously, “life must go on”, and without each generation of children marrying and starting their own families, life on earth, and certainly any continuity of the Jewish People ends. But, with one step already long ago taken, when we find yet another cause of mourning, such as wholesale slaughter of the Jewish People in the Bar Kochba revolt, we return to full mourning mode with a complete ban, for that period of time, on celebrations like weddings.

Whether a correct step or not, most poskim, halachic deciders, accepted this idea of a ban on music and ran with it, extending the enforced silence for instrumental music to encompass all Shabbat, as well as Chaggim, Festivals, the entire year. If you look a little deeper, you’ll find “reasons” for this ban, often including the concern that if the instrument breaks you might for the holiness of the day and start to fix it. Translated to the guitar, you never know when you might break a string, and so involved with the music you might just quit playing suddenly, get out a new string and some tools, replace the string, stretch the new string so it stays in tune, and return to your playing. Except, of course, that whoever you had been playing with would have gone on without you, would have given up and gone home or you would have just lost the thread of what you were musically thinking…. In other words, fixing your instrument would probably never happen. (But that’s ok, halachic discussions often extend to situations which “never occurred and never will occur….)

And, of course, when (as we pray for at least three times daily (and over two thousand years by how many millions of Jew who have lived, how many billions prayers and pleas have there been!) Bayit Sh’lishi, the Third Temple is (re)built, may it be soon, in our days, all these sorts of prohibitions will be cancelled as no longer necessary. We will have reached the point where Jewish Survival is a reality and we’re no longer existentially threatened by, say assimilation and mass intermarriage. Rather than protecting our turf, we can finally build, upon this very turf, a world of eternal perfection.

Nonetheless, even though the reasoning behind it sounds very forced and artificial, I, as well as the rest of my halachically observant guitar friends would never think to play on Shabbat or Chag.

Except once in a while, living outside of a community, perhaps on the second day (in the diaspora) of a chag, the temptation or just the curiosity overcame me. I went over every weakness of the prohibition one more time and turned to the wall where my guitar was hanging. The first thing my eye focused on was a broken G-string, the silver wind around the plastic core completely frayed.

Unplayable, and for that very textbook reason that a string broke. I might have been able to defy the prohibition itself, but this was too much, too personal a message to me….

And I have yet to play my guitar on a Shabbat or on a Chag, even on a “Second Day”–which don’t celebrate living in Israel, but only in the diaspora, seemingly of less Kedusha, Holy-ness. Even known that mathematically, the “demographic flip” the day when the majority of the world’s Jews do, finally, once again live in Eretz Yisrael, can be pretty closely precisely estimated by now (although that isn’t the same, of course, as the Temple being rebuilt….)

That was living in Seattle, archetypal Galut (literally, Exile), diaspora. Quite a few years, by now, ago. Now I live in Jerusalem.

Just like playing a musical instrument on Shabbat, which will surely be permitted, mandated, in fact (as part of the Temple Service), there is a vast bulk, if not an overwhelming majority, of almost blindly accepted halacha which operates in today’s still-diaspora-oriented observant Jewish world which will no longer hold sway once the Temple is rebuilt and functioning. In fact, there are strong opinions that once the criteria for Bayit Shlishi are met, even before it is, in actuality, rebuilt, these halachot will become obsolete and no longer fulfilled.

No longer needing to protect ourselves in our isolation from each other and under the power of often-hostile surrounding spiritual and cultural systems, we should, perhaps, with the urgency of two long-separated lovers finally reunited, prepare ourselves to renew our compelling and intimate relationship with God as it can exist in it’s ideal form, when performing His Will, Torah u-Mitzvot as a proactive relationship with the Creator rather than a reactive relationship with our enemies, will allow us fully vulnerable intimacy as we become and ignite ourselves as the Or l’Goyim, Light Unto The Nations.

So, I won’t be playing my guitar this Shabbat….. , but, perhaps next week? B’mheyra B’Yamenu.

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Which Torah Will I Receive?

A very close friend lives north of Jerusalem in the mountains of the Galil. Like me, but for his own reasons and as product of his own experiences, he also rarely goes to shul nowadays. Rather, he usually takes a long meditation walk in place of Kabbalat Shabbat Friday nights. I always look forward to joining him whenever I’m there. Perhaps a little steep, it’s not too hard a walk, even for my challenged foot (see Praying From The Floor), to focus on breath and silent chant as my perceptions slowly change, opening to an expanded reality of Shabbat.

Part of the walk’s pleasure is watching the sun dip behind a ridge of mountain peaks featuring Mt. Meron and the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the first revealer of the Holy Zohar at, the center. As the light fades and we head home, I often start to tune into the flood of different minyanim, prayer groups, each on their own but each joining all the others with it’s own texture of interwoven prayer.

If I were in one of dozens or more Ashkenazi-based shuls, we’d finish by chanting, together, a short mishna specifying the rules of exactly what we can use as fuel in our Shabbat candles, and I, like many of the men there, will often start to space out, focusing ahead in time to dinner, family and friends.

I had an epiphany several months ago, at the peak of the walk. When the sun disappeared behind the mountains and the sky darkened, we entered a period halachically-known “Ben HaShmashot”, literally between the suns, that twilight period when it’s neither light nor dark. Talmudically, we begin an analysis of whether it’s already Shabbat or still “chol” (ordinary weekday) and when, exactly the transition occurs. This moves us into a mode where one set of rules, Shabbat halachot, takes over. This is a very frequent concern, processing when the rules that make Shabbat deal primarily with restrictions and prohibitions. In many ways, this is a “circle the wagons” moment of defensive attitude where we exclude the outside world and those who inhabit it from the intimate circle of Jewish family and friends.

As I just mentioned, I had an epiphany that evening. Rather than drawing these rules around me like a shield, as I  have done for many years, I was overwhelmed with the urge, instead, to let go, to experience the sensation of, with each departing bit of light, relaxing into a natural Shabbat mode of relaxing, of letting things be, of experiencing the shleimut (Shabbat Shalom), perfect completeness of Shabbat.

Many, if not most of the codified halachot for Shabbat prohibit us from imposing our changes on the reality of each given-by-God Shabbat-moment. Some go so far as to avoid using toothpaste because in doing so we would change the shape of the toothpaste tube and thus, alter reality. We employ this shield of halacha to protect Shabbat not just from the outside world, but from our own habitual compulsion to meddle. It seems the greatest challenge to just let be.

We’re taught that Shabbat is 1/60th of Olam HaBa, the World to Come, that Infinite reward of 100%, 24/7 intimacy with The Creator. We see that we approach this ideal by disengaging our ego-driven creative selves which only get in the way.

It seems there must be another side to the hard-shield/shell of Halacha, a side that rather than blocking, melts away the barriers first between ourselves and our close ones, eventually the barriers we’ve built and created which separate us from God.

Rav Kook frequently employs the imagery of a seed. Hard on the outside, more or less impenetrable in order to guard and protect the life, both material and energy within, it then requires the trust to melt this shield, freeing all the potential and allowing a new burst of life.

For the two thousand years between the Second Temple, the last time we, as a people, had the strength and trust to allow ourselves to completely merge with our Creator, and now, when we’re on the verge, living in our land with almost half the world’s Jews joining us here, of once again reaching this spiritual level, we were governed/governed ourselves with the Torah and Halacha of Surviving Exile and Alienation. And each year, this was the Torah we lovingly received each Shavuot.

Perhaps we’re still a year or a decade or a century from becoming fully Nigal, redeemed, but at some point in the pretty near future we will flip states and will definitely need this future Torah, teaching us how to let down our guard and to fully open our hearts to every manifestation of The Divine. As we sing the Aleinu several times daily when completing a davening (prayer) service, BaYom HaHu Yih’ye Hashem Echad U’Sh’mo Echad. And on the great and wonderful day, God and His Name will surely be One Echad, Singular Yachid, Exclusive (nothing that isn’t God will exist to be “not God”) and M’yuchad, Special, M’lo Kol Ha’aretz Kvodo, filling and defining all existence in perfect harmony.

I know which Torah I long to receive this year and every year in the future.

Moadim l’Simcha

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Thank you.

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Introducing Free Jazz To Judaism

[Note–I usually would proof read and revise this essay for several more iterations, but it’s taken me so long to write this, to capture the urgency and desire which might help us overcome the anxiety which, for literally millennia, have colored this interval, that I’m publishing it as is. I’ll probably revise and repost next week. Or, perhaps not, as more ideas and thoughts scrabble for urgency. Thank you for bearing with me–RabbiZ)

Perhaps it’s not so appropriate to combine a tribute to Cecil Taylor, one of the “founders” of free jazz, with a rabbinic meditation of Jewish Spirituality. Especially inappropriate, one might say, in these days of Sefira, counting, the ladder of days beginning with the second night of Pesach, leading to the joyous highlight of our history and our year, entering into the most intimate of relationships with The Creator which we designate as Shavuot, Z’man Matan Toroteynu, the festival of Shavuot, the moment our Torah is given.

You see, this seven-week period which should have the emotional tone of joy and anticipation, that after the enormous jumpstart of being released from Egyptian slavery, we monitor (and guide) each days progress to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to all mankind. However, it also coincides with an especially disastrous period during the Great Revolt, The Bar Kochba war against the oppression of the Roman occupation shortly after the Bet HaMikdash is destroyed. And during this ver period, each year, we face some restrictions on our music. But, perhaps by reframing our usual experience with music, our usual experience with mitzvot and tefillot, we can find a way, especially during this hyper-vulnerable time, to renew our expression and experience of Judaism.

Think about that moment in time. Give yourself a moment to really think about it, try to experience the panic, the loneliness, the alienation. Everything I know is gone. Literally everything we knew about being a people, let along an Am Kodesh, Holy Nation is gone. With no pat answers, no expectation of continuity, perhaps largely as a logical defense and survival technique, as is often the case when exposed to zero predictability, we responded by creating a new expression of religion which will now at least strive for 100% predictability.

But, of course, the downside of 100% predictability is boredom and rote performance. Even from the first moments (end of chapter 4 of IBra when developing the new, text-rather than action path, our early sages worry and warn about boredom. Prayer that lacks urgency soon becomes mere habit.

Which brings me back to the late Cecil Taylor, the “free jazz” movement and the excitement of witnessing this intense level of spontaneous creation, with no artifice to hide behind. Not to mention creating music in real time at this level…. Although I don’t usually do this in this forum, here are some links to this type of music. (Remember, if you enjoy or are intrigued by this music, to share links to other performances in the comment section.)

Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Coltrane, Interstellar Space, Nels Cline Interstellar Space.

Compare this music the the conformity we’re all familiar with in shul. Of course, we have times that we Jews, as well can build a tremendous amount of energy, but it usually looks like a circle of identically-dressed, black-clad men, stomping in a circle. Singing oy oy oy Ai Ai Ai. As individuals, we’re not encouraged to free our neshamot to soar. We don’t often let ourselves go “off-script” (or “off-score) and expose ourselves in our greatest creativity, greatest transparency, greatest unique inner fires.

Frightened and admonished by the story of Nadav and Avihu, we so strongly flee Aish Zar, a “strange” fire, that we never contemplate what a proper, familiar, legitimate fire could be. Just as most people have a difficult line to cross to expose their most authentic selves to even their closest friends, relatives and lovers, we’re terrified of revealing that authentic self to ourselves and to God.

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Prayer as Radical Acceptance

We Jews love to pray. It’s our most widespread religious practice which, in one form or another, transcends our denominational divides.  We pray formally at least three times each day, but almost constantly we keep up our dialogue with The Creator.

We pray not just to ask favors from God, or as I like to describe it, present our daily shopping list, but more frequently to praise and thank The Creator. Most mitzvot, commandments (religious mandates), which we perform throughout each day, begin with a prayer before and often have another prayer to bring it to a close. These blessings are known as brachot, and generally begin with the words Baruch Ata which roughly means Bless You. By far, the most frequent addressee of our brachot is God.

Just like most of our ritual behavior, there is a tremendous amount of literature written about prayers, tefillot, and blessings, barachot. The Shulchan Aruch, a systematic code of Jewish law written in the 1560s by Rabbi Yosef Karo, contains an interesting passage (Orach Chayim 222:3),  “One is obligated to bless (God) for the bad that befalls him, with full awareness and an accepting heart, exactly in the manner he blesses Him for the good.” (1)

Karo empahsizes the equivalence of our acceptance of the bad with the phrase b’daat shlema, with complete, perfect/understanding. That’s a pretty full prescription for us, but one of the strongest statements of faith we could possibly make. We’re not assuming here the arrogant chutzpah to say we know why God sends bad things our way (nor, for that matter, why He sends us the good). What we can, and are obligated to know is that both are, exactly equivalently, for our benefit and the ultimate benefit of all Creation. The “system” is far more complicated than reward for our good deeds and punishment for the bad.

Since we can’t even say that bad things that come our way is negative feedback for our own bad deeds, why are we supposed to be so happy to break out in spontaneous thanksgiving?

Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, better known just as Rav Kook (First Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Mandatory Palestine (1865 – 1935), provides what might be the best insight as he explains repeatedly through his vast work that created and provides us with all the elements necessary to complete Creation. Among those elements will necessarily be many which, at the surface, repel, rather than attract us. We experience them as bad, unpleasant, some even as evil.

When we’re engaged with these fragments of reality which we need to knit into the completed, redeemed, world. We need to remind ourselves that these experiences not only have utility, but that they’re absolutely necessary to complete our journey. Thus, we need to overcome our first impulse to reject them, but rather to embrace them as the raw material which only we will be able to transform into their most perfect state. In fact, integrating and incorporating them might be are single most valuable contribution.

(1) Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 222:3  סימנים רא-ש סימן רכב   ברכת הודאת הטוב והרע. ובו ד’ סעיפים:  א על שמועות שהן טובות לו לבדו מברך שהחיינו ואם הן טובות לו ולאחרים מברך הטוב והמטיב:  ב על שמועות רעות מברך בא”י אמ”ה דיין האמת:  ג חייב אדם לברך על הרעה בדעת שלמה ובנפש חפצה כדרך שמברך בשמחה על הטובה כי הרעה לעובדי השם היא שמחתם וטובתם כיון שמקבל מאהבה מה שגזר עליו השם נמצא שבקבלת רעה זו הוא עובד את השם שהיא שמחה לו

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A Symphony Of Voices

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.

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