Everyone wants to be understood. When you share your experiences or feelings with a friend and feel genuinely understood, you feel somehow larger, more significant and more real. The pain of not being understood may leave your feelings exposed, invalidated, and trivialized. Real communication takes place when you hear in words and in body language, ”You and I are on the same page. I get it. I stood where you stand.” This gives you validation, courage, and has enormous power. It’s the stuff that unity is made of.
There are times when this kind of bonding can go tragically wrong.
“ You are so right! I’m on the bottom of the barrel, just like you. My job pays minimum wage. Want to know why? The Jews own it all. They control government, the media and the economy’
“ Of course I understand. When I was married I put up with the control and abuse that all men spew. I know how you feel. Get out while you can. I did. Marriage is a trap”
Both of these statements have enough truth to resonate. Jews are ambitious and successful (some of the time). Some men are controlling all of the time. Others like to get there way some of the time (just like you do). Some men are abusive, but not all, and not necessarily the one who is the most central figure in your life. Communicating with half-truths, stereotypes, and greed generates negative bonding. When it does, you have a major moral calamity brewing. This is what underlies the story of the Tower of Babel.
The world was really a global village at the time. Bonding was easy; everyone spoke the same language, lived in a contained area, and understood the contours of each other’s lives. This could have potentially led to building the kind of society in which loving G-d and your fellow man would be the basis of your ambition. You would share your drive to do more and better with people who really understand where you are coming from, and what you envision.
That’s not what happened.
The bonding they generated was based on creating a society that essentially was based on self-worship. No transcendent morality. Independence from conscience. No G-d. Their basic concept was that belief in G-d is enslaving, and belief in yourself and your abilities is liberating. They wanted a human-centered materialistically oriented society. The result was that they lost the ability to communicate with each other. While this was miraculous, and the direct result of Divine intervention, it was the logical outcome of their choices.
The more materialistic your world view is, the less you will be able to really communicate deeply and meaningfully. Materially and physically we are all different. Age is a factor. Many people can’t communicate with anyone more than ten years older or younger than they are. Income is a factor. Many people find themselves “not seeing” the people who serve food, clean the street, or sell tickets for events. They certainly can’t communicate with them. Some people are even stressed when they have to communicate with people who have disabilities. Inevitably you have literally no common language with them.
A person with a spiritual life-view will always have something in common with every person they meet. Their common ground is the spiritual soul that we all have. When that is their basic level, they can communicate with anyone.
One of today’s greats is Rav Yaakov Edelstein. He recently suffered a stroke, which left him unable to communicate verbally. He does, however understand what he hears, and can communicate in writing. One of the speech therapists who are working with him told him that there may be a chance that she can help him regain a very basic level of speech. She said that she would like him to select two words, and to devote their time to getting him to a place where he could use them. She could not guarantee that this would work, or that it would necessarily lead to opening the door to his regaining more than these two words. “Write down the two words you want to be able to say the most”.
What would you write?
One word he chose was “amein “which is an acronym for Kel Melech Neeman, Hashem is faithful. The other word was “toda” which means, “thanks”. These two words convey the essence of what spiritual speech is about. It involves both G-d and man. It is focused on sharing positive feelings that are sometimes hidden from view, but alive in your heart and in your soul.
Isn’t that better than building a tower?