Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Noah 5774

Noah’s descendants bring human civilization forward by leaps and bounds. Their mastery of technology in their generation is as impressive as what we’ve accomplished in ours. 

“And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard.’–Brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar” (Genesis 11:2-3).

Benno Jacob, a 20th-century rabbi and Biblical scholar, noted how the Torah celebrates the accomplishments in the verses above. Even in a lowland region, where the geography isn’t conducive for building, these post-flood humans exhibited ingenuity and found ways to use the materials at hand. Even the Torah’s nouns hint at their technological creativity. Levenah, stone, becomes even, brick; hemar, bitumen, is transformed into homer, mortar.

In Benno Jacob’s time, across the ocean, such progress would be attributed to “good-old American know-how.”

But this very generation is eventually scattered, having failed to accomplish their most cherished goal, the building of The Tower. They are known as Dor Hapelagah, the Split Generation. And they are not represented as the Biblical ideal.

What went wrong? How did a generation with such prowess and promise go astray? We’ll explore this and its implications for our generation on Shabbat morning.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov, 

 

Rabbi David Wise