2710 Genesee St.
Utica, New York 13502
Phone: (315) 724-4751 ✡ email: tbeutica@gmail.com

A Conservative Jewish Congregation Established for
the Worship of God, the Study of Torah, and the Practice of Righteous Deeds

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A Message from Cantor Socolof

CantorWe will read Parshat Noach in October as we usually do. While it always falls in the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, it has been known to come up early in November (the last time was in 2016 and the next time will be in 2019).

At the end of the Parsha, we come across the story of the Tower of Babel. The people of the Earth were of one language, we are told. This makes sense, since all at that time all were descended from Noah. The people have all settled in one valley. They decide to build a tower that will reach the heavens. God sees it and is unhappy. To thwart their endeavor, God gives them different languages so that they can no longer understand each other, and they all go in their different directions.

On its face, this is a biblical explanation for the multiplicity of languages among the many peoples on Earth. That said, why are we left to wonder why God felt threatened by human unity. Isn't unity good? Don't we hope and pray for it as a part of the messianic era?

An appropriate answer might be: Yes, but. Yes, unity can be a wonderful thing, but not all forms of unity are salutary. Proclaiming unity when joining a rioting mob will not serve as mitigation.

Rather, it comes down to motivation and intent. Is the unity for the sake of heaven and Torah, which is to say, for a worthy and noble purpose, or is it for self-service, self-aggrandizement and other less-than-savory purposes?

Why did the people in the valley of Shinar want to build the tower? According to a midrash in the Brayshit Rabbah, the people said, "Come, let us make a tower, place an image on its top, and put a sword in its hand, and it will seem as if it is waging war against Him." The rabbis understood their motive as being (at best) disrespectful to God and a bold statement of arrogance.

We shall, in the days and weeks to come, be asked to assemble and organize for a variety of causes and events. The majority are good causes worthy of our time and effort. May we be given the ability to distinguish these from those that are not. May we enjoy the blessings of unity guided by true intent.

Cantor Socoloff

Contact him at uticacantor@verizon.net