Looking For Babel VII – In Mutual Respect
‘Then Judah went up to him and said, “Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord, and do not be impatient with your servant, you who are the equal of Pharaoh.” (44:18 – sefaria.org)’
I read this confrontation between Judah and Joseph, and although many understand, “you are the equal of Pharaoh,” as a criticism, “just as Pharaoh issues decrees and does not carry them out, makes promises and does not fulfill them, so also do you (Rashi),” perhaps there was mutual acknowledgement of a significant adversary.
We read of such a confrontation in a summary of the Second Punic War:
“In the whole history of the Roman Empire there was no more notable occasion than when the two generals, greater than any before or since, the one the conqueror of Italy, the other of Spain, drew up their armies for a pitched battle. But first a conference was held between them about terms of peace, and they stood for a while motionless in mutual admiration.
It is agreed from the admission of both sides that no armies could have been better arrayed and no battle more obstinately contested; Scipio acknowledged this about Hannibal’s army and Hannibal about that of Scipio.
But Hannibal had to yield, and Africa became the prize of victory; and the whole world soon followed the fate of Africa. (Lucius Florus; Ancient Roman History of second-century).”
In my search for Babel I find moments, such as those above, of mutual respect that crosses the ruins of Babel:
As Churchill publicly, to loud condemnation by Parliament, said of Erwin Rommel, “May I say across the havoc of war, a great general.”
How often do we stand near an adversary, and take the time to appreciate the greatness of the enemy rather than to belittle?
Can we rely on good defeating evil without respecting its genius?
When I said of 9/11, “We must use genius greater than, at least equal to, that of Al Qaeda in order to defeat them,” people heard and were bothered by what they believed to be a compliment, praise.
I think of such responses as Babel.
It was actually intended as respect for the strategic planning of a formidable adversary.
‘A house is built by wisdom, And is established by understanding;
By knowledge are its rooms filled With all precious and beautiful things.
A wise man is strength; A knowledgeable man exerts power;
For by stratagems you wage war, And victory comes with much planning (Proverbs 24:3-6).’
King Solomon guides us in our internal battles.
He does not urge us to ridicule our enemy, nor to deny we speak the same language.
A world filled with angry insults is the World of Babel.
A world in which all who disagree with me are evil is connected to the Great Dispersion.
A world in which a Judah stands before his great Egyptian (perceived) adversary and can appreciate his greatness even as he readies for confrontation, is the world in which Jacob’s family is healed.
It was not perfect.
It was an incomplete healing.
But, it was a world reflecting the path chosen by Abraham;
The path of Yashrut – Integrity and authenticity.
The world of Yisrael – Israel, ‘Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven directly with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.” (32:29)’