I could give my thoughts re Noah, but I have done this before and I will leave it to you. I want to talk about the Seventh Aliyah and about the sport I love above all others, baseball.
Seventh Aliyah: This section recounts the story of the Tower of Babel. Noah's descendants gathered in the Babylonian valley and started building a tower, in an attempt to reach the heavens and battle G‑d. G‑d disrupted their "plan" by causing them each to speak a different language, thus destroying their communications.
What does this have to do with baseball? Well baseball is something that is played in many places and our "National Pastime" has players from around the world chosen because their countries have in some cases embraced baseball more than many of us in this country. Where would we be without some of the players that have come from Latin American countries. Japan worships baseball to the point that when one their stars plays in for an American team, it seems like the entire Japanese press corps comes over here to cover that particular star's every move.
You might think that this would lead to a discussion of how do these various players learn to fit in to the American game without learning English. No, this is not what I am talking about. Translators are now an every day part of all teams and for that matter such things as Google have made it much easier for players with different languages understand what is being told them. This might lead one to think that G-d's plan as devised with the Tower of Babel, which deals with creating different languages to defeat a plan of unification, is coming to an end.
Again baseball shows us that the plan behind the Tower of Babel is alive and well in today's society. As I stated above, I love baseball and to me it is almost like a second religion. I grew up knowing the batting averages of all the players on my favorite team as well as the earned run average of the pitchers and what I thought was an absolute indicator of how good a pitcher was, his wins and losses.
Apparently the indicators that meant something to me have no meaning in today's version of baseball. The nerds have taken over, not physically, in that they would not know one end of a bat from the other but in how one is to judged as a "good" player. Shifts that are alien to me have taken over how one is positioned; a person's batting average does not have the meaning it once had; striking out is not a bad thing in that one does not hit into a double play; strategy or a gut feeling on the part of the manager is not a key element anymore and things such as stealing a base or sacrificing a runner over are almost not heard of. Baseball now comes down to hitting a home run or not scoring. In other words, it has become boring.
Again how does this come within the story of the Tower of Babel? Well maybe G-d is getting fed up with people moving away from religion and people worshipping teams and players more that they think about the Supreme Being. How do I know we are still falling from the Tower of baseball, I defy you to explain the term WAR that is used today in evaluating a player.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is all-inclusive and provides a "useful" reference point for comparing players. WAR offers an estimate to answer the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a freely available minor leaguer or a AAAA player from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins, which means it is highly likely that Player X has been more valuable than Player Y.
In other words you cannot evaluate a player by looking at him andseeing him hit a sacrifice fly or giving himself up by hitting to the second base side of the infield to move a runner over, you must use some sort of Einsteinian formula to know a player's worth. To me this is nonsense and just as the fall of the Tower of Babel caused chaos and confusion, I fear the great game of baseball will be ruined by untranslatable mishmash. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
I know how much you love baseball - particularly the Yankees - and I delighted in the ways that you tied the game you love into the Tower of Babel narrative that appears in this week's parasha. The Tower of Babel narrative is one of the most deceptively simple stories of the Torah. Everyone thinks they know it, and it is one of the few remaining stories from the Bible that remains entrenched in contemporary culture.
While I'd like to focus on what you wrote about baseball, which was fascinating, I'd like to hone in on your points about the Tower of Babel. You seem to make two points about this puzzling narrative. At first, you write, "This might lead one to think that G-d's plan as devised with the Tower of Babel, which deals with creating different languages to defeat a plan of unification is coming to an end." Your proof for this is the ease with which foreign players - particularly from Latin America and Japan - integrate into their American baseball teams. Through translators and Google, the universal messages conveyed through the multiplicity of languages, cut through to the surface.
Yet several paragraphs later, you write, "Well, maybe G-d is getting fed up with people moving away from religion and people worshipping teams and players more than they think about the Supreme Being." You then turn to a new metric called WAR, which demonstrates that the Tower of Babel is still crumbling down, a testament to G-d's victory. WAR is a metric that is not only ultimately incomprehensible, but eradicates any commonsensical understanding that fans have enjoyed for decades.
I find these two citations interesting because of how they are opposed to one another. In one cases, the Tower thrives and G-d loses; in the other the Tower crumbles, and G-d wins. That these two cases can take place simultaneously is remarkable and testifies to the enduring relevance of the Tower of Babel narrative.
What your two citations speak to are 1) the way in which advancements in technology create greater unity among human beings 2) how a new language of baseball statistics has confused what has always been the joy the astounding clarity and simplicity of the game of baseball brings.
The key verse in the Tower of Babel narrative is the following: "And they said, 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the sky" (Genesis 11:4). Following as it does on the narrative of the Flood, the Tower of Babel demonstrates that human beings did not trust that G-d would never destroy the earth again and sought to create its own mechanism for saving themselves should G-d's destructive wrath sweep the earth again. The tower's top is in the sky. That is to say that the builders tried to create an escape hatch should the earth become uninhabitable.
Why G-d dislikes the Tower is an immensely challenging question. A plain reading suggests that G-d opposes human unity, which does not make G-d look all that good. The message, however, of the narrative becomes clear when we consider 11:4. G-d endowed human beings with tremendous ingenuity, but one of the deceptions that human ingenuity breeds is the illusion that we can be and succeed in this world without dependence upon our Creator. Ultimately, religion's teaching is geared toward instructing us that we can, need, and must depend on Him. The seduction of human ingenuity is always, like the snake in Eden, capable of dissuading us from this necessary truth.
I do not think that my view has any sort of opposing theme. My overall point is just when you think through technology or whatever breakthrough might give us a "common language" and thus defeat the intent of the destruction of the Tower of Babel, I showed you albeit through baseball that this is not necessarily true and that technology has created its own Tower of Babel.
What I especially like is your embrace of some of my comments as it relates to the Torah. If I do nothing else through our exchanges, I hope this broadens your thought process to "think out of the box" when explaining the parshah of the week. I do not study Rashi but to those like you who do, I would be willing to bet that his thoughts were somewhat "out of the box" for his time. You do not have to just quote someone like Rashi to make a point.
What I gain most from our exchanges is the connections you draw between the contemporary world and the parsha shavua. That is how I understand what you mean by “thinking out of the box.” Rashi was undoubtedly an innovator, and innovators must change the paradigm they inherit.
Let me state the matter this way: The connection you draw between baseball and the Tower of Babel demonstrates the dual nature of technology – that its connects us through universalizing our communication but also disconnects us by mechanizing our impressions in ways that are deeply unhuman.