Thick as a Brick: Noah 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What details about past times give us a clear sense of what life was like in prior days? What kinds of details aren’t especially helpful?

The account of the Tower of Babel is briefly interrupted with an explanation of the materials used for its construction:

The Pitch: “They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard.’ — Brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar.” – Genesis 11:3

Swing #1: “Simply put, a number of the Hebrew words for ‘friend’ can mean other things as well, and therefore we must depend upon their contextual usage to help us determine their meaning. A primary example is the noun rea’, the most common word for ‘friend’ in the Hebrew Bible. … its meaning in [this verse’s context is] simply [one another].” – Saul M. Olyan, Friendship in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “The description of the building of Esagila [‘House of the Raised Head’], as told in the Babylonian Creation story Enuma Elish, can still be heard in the biblical tower story. … It seems that the biblical writer, unwilling to accept that Babylon – a pagan city – was the entryway to heaven, found various ways to counter this Babylonian tradition that was well known in Israel. First, he converted the story of the building into one of ultimate failure and human conceit. At the same time, though, he introduced an alternative story about the gate to heaven. This time the gate’s location was in Israel, the Land of One God. This replacement story is found in Genesis 28: the story of Jacob’s dream.” – Shinan, Avigdor & Zakovitch, Yair, From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

Swing #3: “The bricklaying technique described in the Bible at the building of the Tower of Babel corresponds with findings of the archaeologists. As the investigations confirmed, actually only asphalted bricks were used in the construction, especially in the foundations. That was clearly necessary for the security in accordance with building regulations.” – Werner Keller, The Bible as History: A Confirmation of the Book of Books

Late-Inning Questions: What lessons do our commentators take from this biblical verse? Is the story of Babel most useful as an indication of past practices, or as a lesson for future generations? Might someone try to build another Tower of Babel in the future? What would it say about our society if someone actually tried?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: We’re hosting another Drive-Up Flu Vaccination Clinic at the Temple Sundays, October 10th, from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. RSVP to Marcia Goldstein to let her know which day you’ll attend, and whether you’re over the age of 65.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of construction, I’m highly intrigued by the upcoming Dodgers-Giants playoff series – two teams that were built very differently. While the matchup shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on how to build a contender in modern MLB, it’ll be interesting to see what lessons sports media will conclude depending on which team is victorious.

Shabbat Shalom!