“Hallie it’s momma” a tearful survivor of Hurricane Michael phoned her daughter. “It was a lot rougher than we thought. We’re ok. I love you too, bye.” The enormity of the devastation is hard to grasp. “Other people’s furniture in our home. Other people’s homes on our land.” The suspending of orderly separation between land and sea present an eery allusion to Flood of Noah in this week’s portion of Torah.
But the Torah’s divine-human dynamic is much more nuanced. God covenants to never again disrupt the natural order. The laws of physics, the Periodic Table of Elements, the consistency of matter itself, are irrevocably established and signaled by the rainbow.
Thereafter, the Tower of Babel revises the way judgement works. Global destruction is replaced by measure-for-measure discipline. The Torah employs a chiastic structure (abc/cba) to convey this. “And it was: All the earth was one language and the same words” (Gen. 11: 1). In response to the people’s designs “let us build” (hava) a tower heavenward, God visits and determines, “Let us go down (hava) and babble their language there so that one won’t understand the other’s language” (Gen. 11: 4,7). Wrongful conduct is reversed with precision. The reflective presentation of words suggests a mirror-image phenomenon. What we bring to the world is returned to us in kind.
It is fascinating that the Torah chooses to teach this lesson with the subject of communication. When communication ceases, so does building. Perhaps the same is true for communication and healing.
When life is unfair, when bad things happen to good people, then human kindness can help try to restore balance. When life is painful and unfair, heartbreak can be met with heartwarmth. Where agony abides, empathy may enter.
May a wave of kindness swell as the devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael is absorbed. And may we each find ways to demonstrate how hope and healing can work to restore and rebuild by communicating heartfelt works, words, and ways amidst heart-rending times.