"It was indeed a privilege to find such an example of what Diaspora Jewry should be, in the Helsinki Jewish Community.
Good Luck to you all."
Although the weekly portion is mainly about Noah and the Flood, there is also another story that is embedded within this week’s “Parsha “ .
At the beginning of the story of Tower of Babel in Barashit Yud Aleph – it is written
וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים.
And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
After which, as we know, the people turned away from HaShem’s ways, became proud and thought that by building the Tower they could reach the sky and G-d. HaShem saw this and destroyed the Tower, scattered the people throughout the world, each with a different language.
So the people were punished for their greed and lost the privilege of having one language and one speech.
One question that interests me is this – Is there an importance in having one language?
First, I have a short story to tell. When our youngest son, after the army went to travel – he spent a year on his own travelling down the East coast of Africa – one night he set his tent up in an empty area in Tanzania. At dawn, he hears the sound of a mini-van coming in and a small number of people get out to prepare breakfast. He told us that he heard the sound of “Lashon Hakodesh” ( Hebrew / Ivrit ) and he went up to them and of course, they welcomed him and gave him breakfast and treated him like a long lost son. He asked them if there was any one from Haifa and one couple said – Yes and he asked if they would take a CD of photographs back with them for his parents. He wrote down our names and gave it to them. To his astonishment, they said “Ah David and Lynne Toubkin, we know them, they live very close to us” !!!
And a second example relates to here and now- When we arrived in Helsinki 15 months ago, we knew no one and had no contacts and no Finnish language. On the second day, I came to the synagogue and was greeted with a warm smile by Boel and introduced to Rabbi Simon in “Lashon Hakodesh” . I immediately felt welcomed and David and I were encouraged to join the community and participate in the various activities which take place in the community i.e Exercise classes, the Sifria, The Kiddush Group, Wizo, Emunah, lectures in the community and so on .
During our time in Helsinki, many of you here have made us feel like part of your extended family; you have invited us into your homes and summer cottages and generously given us both help and even more important, friendship. But now it is time for us to return home to Israel, myself on Monday and David at the end of November. We want you to know how much we have valued and appreciated our connection with you and sincerely look forward to opening our home in Haifa to you all. We know that we now have an everlasting bond with the Helsinki Jewish Community.
So how can we connect these two examples with the question of the significance of one language?
I believe that “Lashon HaKodesh” is one of the most central unifying elements of our Jewish identity
And the message that is so important to give our children and grandchildren is this: With “Lashon HaKodesh” whether it is just a few words, or as a second language, one can find a home anywhere in the world. This can be through a synagogue or Beit Habad or in Eretz Yisrael or by just meeting others in a new and strange place. Feeling comfortable with “Lashon HaKodesh” is the key. And how is this accomplished here in Helsinki? You have a kindergarten, a school, youth activities, lecture programs, Hebrew classes, B’nei Akiva, Shalichim – Nohav, Tzofia, Ella and Batia in order to achieve this. So encourage your families and friends to participate. This is the way that the next generation will always have an identity and a place they can call “Home” wherever they are in the world.
והשם יברך אתכם והקהילה הזו רק בדברים טובים
May HaShem bless you all and this community only with good things
ושוב פעם תודה רבה
And again thank you all
Shabbat Shalom Lynne Toubkin