"N ow the entire earth was of one language and one speech” (Bereishis 11:1).

Hashem punished the Dor Haflagah by infusing different languages into their midst, causing conflict. But couldn’t Hashem have stopped their actions even while they spoke the same language? Why was it necessary to separate them? (Sfas Emes)

I was running late and in danger of missing my flight. Although this was long before 9/11 and you could still show up at the gate just minutes before your flight, I was cutting it close. I flagged down a taxi and threw my bags into the trunk. The driver turned around to smile, his teeth white against his tanned face.

“Ben Gurion?”

“Yep. But my flight’s in an hour.”

“An hour?!” He exploded into a rush of Hebrew, words spewing in his traditional Sephardic tongue. I barely understood the rapid flow, but the gist ran something like: “Who leaves Yerushalayim an hour before her flight? What were you thinking? That you’re the prime minister and El Al will hold the whole flight for you? What kind of irresponsibility is this?”

He jammed on the gas, pulling into traffic with his hand on his horn as he sped toward Tel Aviv. Oh boy. It was iffy if I’d even survive this mad dash to the airport, but it all seemed inconsequential compared to the dressing down I was getting from my driver.

He narrowly cut off another taxi, leaning his head out, screaming, “What can I do? Her flight’s in an hour!”

Fellow Taxi Man nodded his understanding and pulled aside for us to sail through. It seemed like the whole country sympathized with my driver for my inexcusable irresponsibility, while allowing me full speed ahead to make my plane.

I doubt the prime minister ever had such an entourage.

Language is essential to man. The main strength of a speaker is the power of his soul. As it says in Bereishis (2:7): “And He formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.”

Rashi comments that animals are also called living souls, but man was additionally given intelligence and speech so he can bear witness to his Creator. (ibid.)

Thirty-five minutes later, my driver screeched to a halt in front of the terminal and jumped out.

“She’s going to miss her flight!” he called to the traffic cop. “I’ll be right back.”

To my shock, he grabbed my bags in one hand and sprinted off to check-in, yelling at me to follow.

“She’s late for the flight to New York!” He gestured in annoyance toward me as I huffed and puffed. “Put her suitcase through!”

Then he nabbed an El Al staff member and shoved my carry-on into his hand. “Get her to the gate on time!”

I barely had a chance to pay him and thank him for his help.

“Don’t thank me. Next time leave on time!”

Lashon Kodesh is the root of all 70 languages. It’s a sign for Bnei Yisrael that they’re Hashem’s portion in this world, His inheritance.

Bnei Yisrael’s strength is the achdus they share as the nation that speaks Lashon Kodesh. Hashem didn’t want to nullify this power. Therefore, He separated the nations through language, leaving only Bnei Yisrael bound by Lashon Kodesh forever. (ibid.)

The flight was uneventful until landing, when we kept circling. I had a connecting flight and was once again running late.

The moment the plane doors opened, I hit the ground running. But the luggage didn’t arrive and customs dragged. By the time I arrived at my connecting gate, boarding had finished.

“I need to make that connecting flight to Baltimore!” I pointed to the plane sitting right next to the Jetway.

“I’m sorry, honey.” The agent’s words were slow and sweet as molasses, but she barely moved a perfectly trimmed eyebrow as she languidly gestured toward the doorway. “Boarding’s already finished. I can’t let you on.”

“But the plane’s still right there! And it’s the last flight for today!”

“I wish I could help you, sweetie. But there’s nothing I can do.”

The contrast between the two situations would’ve been funny if I hadn’t been so frustrated. This time around, I understood every word spoken. Her tone was perfectly polite and her words selected to portray concern. But it was clear that she wasn’t going to move a manicured nail to get me on that flight.

What was missing was the language of the heart. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 563)