דרשה שבועית

I was privileged to participate in an event called "Harmony for Humanity as part of the Daniel Pearl World Music Days. As you know, Daniel Pearl, a Jew with dual American and Israeli citizenship, a journalist and a musician, was kidnapped and murdered by extremists in 2002 in Pakistan.  Since then, hundreds of musical events have been held around the world each October.  The Music Days promote the Daniel Pearl Foundation's goal of using the power of music to promote tolerance to remind people of all cultures and religions that we share a common humanity
The concert was held in Lod, a city close to Kibbutz Gezer where Birkat Shalom is located.  The concert was a gift of the U.S. Embassy, recognizing that the Jewish and Arab residents constantly strive to live side by side, with mutual respect for one another's culture and shared aspirations of prosperity and peace.
David Broza, Mira Awad, and the Jerusalem Jewish-Arab Youth Chorus performed and inspired all who attended. I share with you the background of the perhaps lesser-known performers.
Mira Awad was born in Rameh village in Galilee, Israel to an Israeli Palestinian Christian father from the Galilee (Anwar), a physician by profession, and a Bulgarian Christian mother. She studied at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat HaSharon. She participated in improvisational workshops in Israel and the UK sponsored by the BIArts, British Council, and studied at the Body Theatre School after receiving a scholarship from the America-Israel Culture Foundation.  Mira has collaborated musically with Achinoam (Noa) Nini, the Jewish Israeli singer. In 2009, they represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest  singing There Must Be Another Way. She was the first Arab Israeli to represent Israel at Eurovision, singing the first Israeli Eurovision song with Arabic lyrics. On November 19, 2009, ‘Awaḍ and Noa were awarded the Haviva Reik Peace Prize from Givat Haviva, to honor their commitment to peace and dialogue between Jews and Arabs.
The mission of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus is to provide a space for young people from East and West Jerusalem to grow together in song and dialogue. Through the co-creation of music and the sharing of stories, we seek to empower our singers to become leaders in their communities.
The final song, by David Broza, the Israeli musician, is an anthem to peace, which he wrote when Anwar Sadat came to visit Israel in 1979.

Yeladim lov'shim k'nafaim
ve'afim el hatzava
ve'acharei sh'nataim
hem chozrim lelo t'shuvah
anashim chayim bemetach
mechapsim sibah lin'shom
uvein sin'ah leretzach
medabrim al hashalom
Veyihyeh tov
yihyeh tov, ken
lif'amim ani nishbar
az halailah
ho halailah
itach ani nish'ar
We will yet learn to live together
between the groves of olive trees
children will live without fear
without borders, without bomb-shelters
on graves grass will grow,
for peace and love, 
one hundred years of war
but we have not lost hope. 
And all will be good
yes, all will be good
though I sometimes break down
but this night
oh, this night, 
I will stay with you. 

פרשת נח - 24.02.14

Noah Tower of Babel chapter 11 verses 1-9
א  וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים. 1 And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
ב  וַיְהִי, בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
ג  וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ, הָבָה נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים, וְנִשְׂרְפָה, לִשְׂרֵפָה; וַתְּהִי לָהֶם הַלְּבֵנָה, לְאָבֶן, וְהַחֵמָר, הָיָה לָהֶם לַחֹמֶר. 3 And they said one to another: 'Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
ד  וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶה-לָּנוּ עִיר, וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם, וְנַעֲשֶׂה-לָּנוּ, שֵׁם:  פֶּן-נָפוּץ, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ. 4 And they said: 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'
ה  וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה, לִרְאֹת אֶת-הָעִיר וְאֶת-הַמִּגְדָּל, אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ, בְּנֵי הָאָדָם. 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
ו  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם, וְזֶה, הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת; וְעַתָּה לֹא-יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת. 6 And the LORD said: 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.
ז  הָבָה, נֵרְדָה, וְנָבְלָה שָׁם, שְׂפָתָם--אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ, אִישׁ שְׂפַת רֵעֵהוּ. 7 Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.'
ח  וַיָּפֶץ יְהוָה אֹתָם מִשָּׁם, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיַּחְדְּלוּ, לִבְנֹת הָעִיר. 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city.
ט  עַל-כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמָהּ, בָּבֶל, כִּי-שָׁם בָּלַל יְהוָה, שְׂפַת כָּל-הָאָרֶץ; וּמִשָּׁם הֱפִיצָם יְהוָה, עַל-פְּנֵי כָּל-הָאָרֶץ.  {פ} 9 Therefore was the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. {P}

An equally modern explanation with far different results was put forth by the nineteenth century commentator Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, (Netziv):

Since the views of human beings are not the same, they (the builders of the Tower) were concerned that others should not have a different perspective. Therefore, they would watch that no one would leave their city, and those who expressed an opposing view were sentenced to death by burningŠ It seems their shared words became an obstacle and they decided to kill anyone who did not think as they did. (Ha'emek Davar on Genesis 11)
In this explanation, what passed for unity was forced on the individual in a totalitarian manner. The Tower symbolizes a guard tower that one might find in a prison.

This explanation is more along the lines of the midrashic view that the quest to build this symbol of human strength resulted in a lack of concern for the individual. Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer recounts how if a person carrying the bricks up the Tower fell down and died, the work nevertheless continued, but if a brick fell down all the builders stopped and wept. The glory of the collective vision was constructed at the expense of the individual's life.
The builders of the Tower of Babel were scattered, no longer understanding one another's language and culture.  So too today, when people are afraid of the "other".  It reminds me of the broken vessel which we are always trying to repair in "tikkun olam".  Perhaps the unity and beauty of the music has the healing power to overcome the differences and to create a common language.