Topic: Parashat Noach and Jewish dispersion
Written by: Bnei Akiva of UK and Ireland
Age Group: Aleph and Zach
1. To learn the story of the Tower of Bavel
2. To think about the dispersion of the Jewish people today
3. To consider what linked us together in the past and continues to bind us together today
When you think of Parshat Noach, the first thing that normally springs to mind, is the flood, and close to total destruction. However, as with most sidrot, there is so much more going on…
We are going to base this weeks kvutsah on the Tower of Bavel and from there take a look at Am Yisrael today. Why are we so dispersed and are we still an Am Echad? If so, what is binding us all together?
The story so far…
Okay, so there was no world, and then there was… G-d creates the world in six days and rests on
the seventh. Adam and Chava (Eve) eat from the Eitz HaDa'at (the tree of knowledge) and get kicked out of Gan Eden. One of their sons (Cain) commits the first murder, killing his brother (Abel). The tenth generation is then Noach.
"G-d saw that man's wickedness on earth was increasing. Every impulse of his innermost thought was only for evil, all day long. G-d regretted that He had made man on earth, and He was pained to His very core. G-d said, 'I will obliterate humanity that I have created from the face of the earth - man, livestock, land animals and birds of the sky. I regret that I created them.' But Noach found favour in G-d's eyes." (Bereishit 6: 5 - 8)
Noach is commanded to build an ark for himself, his family and a couple of animals (2 of each kind of animal, and 7 pairs of every 'clean' animal). The flood lasted for 40 days and nights, where everything that wasn't in the ark was wiped out. Once Noach & co. had departed from the ark and Hashem had made a brit (covenant) with Noach about never destroying the world with a flood again (rainbow serves as a reminder of this brit), they begin again. Ten generations later Avraham is born (in the Jewish year of 1948 - how cool!).
This is where we now begin…
- What do you think the idea behind building the tower of Bavel was?
- Was it an appropriate 'team building' exercise?
- Why do you think they thought they might be "scattered all over the face of the earth"?
- Why do you think Hashem was so angry?
- Do you think Hashem used a 'fitting' punishment?
- Do you think the Jewish People can still 'work together' when we no longer have one language and are dispersed around the world?
Okay, so that was then, what about now?
Well, easy tiger, we can't zoom to today, as there are several gaps in the middle that we need to fill in.
Jump to the end of Sefer Devarim and Bnei Yisrael are on the verge of entering Israel. Throughout the Book of Yehoshua the Jewish People are busy conquering the Land that was promised to us from Hashem several times in the Torah (originally to Avraham) and so it continues through Nach. David Hamelech (King Dave) changes Israel's capital city to Yerushalayim and his son Shlomo, with a bit of help, builds the first Beit Hamikdash. Unfortunately things go slightly down hill after a while; Israel is split into 2 (Israel and Judah), the Temple is disregarded and falls to ruins, idolatry sets in and in the year 3338 Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (Bavel - what a link!) and his army invade Israel destroying the Temple, killing 100,000 Jews, and sending Israel into exile.
The exiles of the northern kingdom (Israel) were scattered among the various nations, and, as time passed, assimilated among foreign peoples. The exiles from Judah, however, were permitted to settle together in Babylon and were convinced that G-d would have mercy on them and return them to the land of Israel. They remembered the words of the prophet Jeremiah, (who not only prophesied the destruction and exile, but also witnessed them with his own eyes,) who, speaking in G-d's name, said, "I will gather you again from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you".
Sure enough, when Cyrus, King of the conquering Persians, he invited everyone back and allowed all the different peoples to reinstitute their worship. About 50,000 Jewish exiles returned to Israel - the rest remained where they had settled.
The destruction of the second Temple by the Romans led to more dispersion for the Jewish people. To this day, the Jewish people are spread around the world. The following figures show us just how scattered we are today…
Japan - 2,000
Italy - 35,000
Kenya - 165 families
Morocco - 10,000
Norway - 2,000
Sweden - 18,000
Australia - 106,000
China - 3,100
USA - 5,950,000
Ukraine - 600,000
France - 800,000
Bulgaria - 6,500
Okay, so, as we can see the dispersion that began for the first time with the Migdal Bavel, is just as prevalent today. The reasons for us being so spread out may have changed, but the fact that we are still scattered, has not. However, despite our situation, there are proud and knowledgeable Jews all over the world, so there must be something keeping us together.
What is the link?
There are 3 things that bind the Jewish People together:
- Am Yisrael - We are all part of the Jewish people, and no matter how far spread out we are, that fact remains and keeps us united. Being a part of our religion also means being part of our
nation. People all over the world are citizens of their country, but are also proud to be called Jews.
- Eretz Yisrael - Hashem promised Avraham many years ago that he and his descendants would inherit Israel. Jews all over the world know that they have Israel as a homeland and we have an attachment to it wherever we are. Jews all over the world face Israel in their prayers 3 times a day and especially with the situation there today, Israel is constantly in our hearts and in our minds.
- Torat Yisrael - The Torah is more than a book of laws; it is an instruction manual for life. A living diary of the Jewish people, which shows us where we are coming from and what we are striving towards. By following what is set out in the Torah, Jews all over the world are practicing and keeping the same mitzvot.
Please note: It is often because these 3 issues are held in such high regard, that they are so argued and fought over. Indeed, these links often tear people apart, yet this only serves to prove how endeared and important they are to us all!
Spookily enough, these three links in the chain are also the three foundation stones that underpin Bnei Akiva. The three most crucial things that keep us together are the three things that the members of Bnei Akiva are proud to hold high.
Thus, from our dispersion after Migdal Bavel, to our dispersion today, there are still 3 central ideas that keep us all as an Am Echad!
To learn the story of the Tower of Bavel
? Use the actual text and learn with your kvutsah
? Tell the story / do a quiz on the story
? The action language game - highlights difficulty of dialogue when people cannot communicate
To think about the dispersion of the Jewish people today
? Use the numbers of people in different countries - higher/lower, matching pairs, the price is right
? It (tag)- everyone running around spread out everywhere… although there is the option of 'home' (Israel)
To consider what linked us together then and continues to bind us together today
? Dog & Bone / Grab the shmate - everyone going for the same thing. 2 teams, each stand in a
line facing the other, with an object in the middle. Each person on both teams has a number (so on each team there is a 1 a 2 etc) and when your number is called by the madrich you make a run for the object.
? Happy Jewish families - the links are there! One person sits down and starts talking about themselves (hi, my name is Rachel, I have 2 brothers…) whilst everyone else listens, and as soon as someone else has something in common with the speaker e.g. also has 2 brothers, they say, "Ooh, ooh, me too!" They sit next to the first person and they become the speaker. This
continues until everyone is linked in and sitting in the circle, whereupon everyone says, "Hurrah!
Happy Jewish families!"