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The Computer of Babel

The Torah's story of the Tower of Babel is about what happens when humanity becomes so arrogant as to use a "universal language" to "storm Heaven."

Today our universal language is the 0-1-0-0-1-1-0-1-0-0-0-0-1 of the computer, and we have used it to make the whole human race dependent on a single technology. Now we know how flawed that technology is. Will computers and chips that do not recognize the Year 2000 actually bring on a near apocalyptic global disaster simply because they get the date -- one of the most the basic numbers -- wrong?

Some believe this might happen, if chips and computers that are embedded in electric power systems and other crucial infrastructures fail as the millennium turns. This could be even more serious than failures in bank records and other commercial enterprises.

What is to be done? Here too the Bible points the way. When Babel's arrogance brings disaster on its builders, God not only baffled and "babbled" them -- but also healed them -- with a multiplicity of tongues.

"Back to the space where you speak face-to-face," said God: "Recreate your local cultures and communities, to replace the towering machinery of global arrogance!"

Out of that crisis, if we look back at our Bibles, came the family of Abraham and Sarah, the people Israel -- and all the other peoples that speak their own local mother-tongues in their own localities on Mother Earth.

Whether the Y2K bug creates merely serious problems or a major disaster, the solution is the same -- because the values that Babel teaches are the same:

Regrow local and regional eco-communities, intimately intertwined with the earth. For this purpose, that means:

In communities, not in isolated households, begin now to gather information and discuss the possibilities. Panic is born of ignorance.

And in communities, not in isolated households, relearn how to keep warm with local resources, how to stock and share some essential foods, how to share synagogues and similar communal buildings as emergency living spaces.

In other words, imagine a post-tornado/ earthquake scene, and prepare for it.

Then if disaster comes, we will be able to meet it without martial law and without catastrophe. If disaster does not come, we can take new joy in the communities of human beings and the earth they live in. These plants, these animals, these rivers, these human faces bearing in them the Spark of God.

Perhaps parts of our global super-structure, our Tower of Babel, are about to die. If not, surely our "societal addictions" -- to the computer, to the gasoline that heats our air to global scorching -- have begun to ride our backs with a deadly grin -- and need to be controlled if we are to live.

Yet we also need a learning that is not so clear at the end of the Bible's Babel story. This time we must keep alive that knowledge that will keep us alive: that each local space and face, not only the one we see when we wake up each morning, is a Spark of the Divine. That our loving of what we see face-to-face is a lie unless we also love what we see only from the Moon: the face of earth. All Earth.

From the death of our habitual addictions to the World Machine, we can draw forth renewal and rebirth of the Organic Earth, in which each organ is sacred and the whole is sacred too. From the reconnection with our beloved places in the earth, we can relearn an arithmetic of sacred spaces, sacred faces.
Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah

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