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1 1 3 150
October 30 0 2008 jN
n the aftermath of the great flood flourish.
that destroyed civilization in the
The conclusion of the biblical story
days of Noah, the people who
has a foreboding message for us. The
survived sought to make a new begin-
tower built in the plain of Shinar came
ning. The Torah tells us that it was an
to be known as the Tower of Babel
era of peace.
— a term which means confusion.
"And the whole earth was of one
Eventually, the peace and harmony
language and of one speech."
which united the people were replaced
They lived in the fruitful plain of
by strife and contention. They ceased
Shinar and they said, "Come let us
to understand one another, and they
build a city and a tower
were scattered all over the
with its top in heaven, and
let us make us a name."
If we would avoid a
When our sages dis-
disastrous repetition of
cussed and reflected on
history, our generation
this seemingly ideal soci-
must begin where they
ety and the noble inten-
failed. The people of Shinar
tions of the people, they
thought that the bricks
recalled that the people of
and mortar were more
Shinar built a tower only.
important than the lives of
They never got around to
the builders. Unlike them,
building a city, according
we must recognize that the
to Bereshit Rabbah 38:1.
human element is the most
Special to the
Somehow, the tower with
significant. The ancients
its top in heaven, coupled
gave the tower top prior-
with the desire to make a
ity. Our chief goal must
name for themselves, pushed aside
be the building of the city — with
the noble and pressing task of build-
the dimension of depth, rather than
ing a city with its civilizing and
height — a depth that would reflect
compassion and understanding.
We can understand their dilemma.
The builders of the tower lamented
Our cities are in trouble — we have
the loss of bricks and disregarded the
mastered the engineering skills to
loss of their fellow human beings. We
build the highest towers in the world, must learn to value human life above
yet the stark evil of the terrorists
all. Come let us build a city that will
who drove airplanes into the Twin
be a model of the values we wish to
Towers and the Pentagon re-enforce
transmit to our children and grand-
how far we are from a world in which children.
we respect one another and allow
different cultures to live together in
David Nelson is rabbi emeritus of
Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park.
We have not learned the art of living
together harmoniously. We must find
a way to rebuild our civilization and a
good place to begin would be within
our homes and our cities.
One hears a great deal about
How do we build bridges and
urban renewal, urban studies and
not walls? What values would
the building of the inner city. Like
you stressing a "rebuilt city"?
the ancient Babylonians with their
What is the language for creating
famous hanging gardens, we have
unity? What role does God play in
mastered the art of building towers;
a "rebuilt society and world"?
but we have not found a way to build
cities where people can live together
peaceably and where civilization can