By: Morah Esther Markel
Growing up in a family with not much money to spare, one thing my siblings and I yearned for was to each have our own room. What a wonderment it would be to be able to have a place of quiet and solitude, a place that was ours alone. Alas, it was not to be.
Then one of us had an idea. At first it was just a little idea, but with our enthusiasm the idea grew and gained momentum. We had to put it into action! In the backyard there was a playhouse- just the right size to help us gain the secrecy we needed. You see, my siblings and I were going to dig a tunnel underground- then branch out and create underground caves, and there we would each have our own room. Armed with just a garden spade, we began digging. One of us was the look-out, making sure the coast was clear from intervening parents, while another of us fashioned all sorts of artifacts from the clay we unearthed as we continued to dig. Believe it or not, we worked hard at our project and were probably about six feet deep and beginning to tunnel. We had carved niches into the earth to serve as footholds as we climbed down. We were excited about the next step.
And then…..and then our parents called us in for a conference. What we were doing was dangerous, they said. “What if there was an earthquake?” The activity was over- the project was quashed. My parents had to go to the store to buy a shovel- they hardly expected us to fill in months’ worth of work with a garden spade- and in a short span of time the project was history.
I’m a bubby now, but throughout my growing up I reflected on this many times. How could it be that my parents let us get so far without making us call it quits earlier? Were they simply unaware of what they were doing because of the board we strategically left over the hole we had dug? Once I became a mother myself however, everything became clear. How many times did I “close my eyes” to what my own children were doing, even though I didn’t approve 100 percent, only because they were all getting along so beautifully and working together as a team. There’s nothing we as parents value more than harmony amongst our children.
In this week’s parsha we read of two destructions. First we read about Noach and his generation – a group whose wrongdoing was directed against each other. Then we read of yet another group- a group who share a common language and come together to build a tower that would reach the heavens, so they could wage war with Hashem. Rashi asks an interesting question. Why was Noach’s generation completely destroyed, while the punishment of the generation of the tower was that their structure was destroyed, their languages were mixed up and they were dispersed throughout the land? ”Interestingly enough, punishment wasn’t even meted out until the group started to value a brick that fell from the top of the tower more than a fallen comrade.
Maybe Hashem is saying to us that what He values most, like any parent, is harmony amongst “his children.” Perhaps Hashem’s message is that when all of us work together to support each other towards a mutual goal, we can then create a culture of care and empathy, something highly treasured by our Creator.
Morah Esther Markel is an educator par excellence. Over the past 35 years of her teaching career she has taught the full educational gamut. She has served as an educator on all levels—beginning as a nursery school teacher and director, after which she continued on to teach every single grade of elementary school, from pre-K to eighth grade. She currently serves as the Judaic principal of the Conejo Jewish Day School (CJDS).Greatly loved by all who know her, she is affectionately referred to as “Morah Esther” by her thousands of students. She is passionate about instilling strong Jewish values and a love for Torah in all her “children.”