Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I touched on this in my last post. Man in his natural state is no different from animals. Man is just another category in that genus (I am never good with these terminologies so I hope I am expressing myself correctly). Man has an additional feature that helps him in his fight for survival in his environment; his mind. It makes up for the other deficiencies that he comes with. Man is limited in the foods he can use, is less powerful than other large animals and is slower. His mind and the abilities it has compensates for those deficiencies. A man that uses his brains just for survival is therefore no more than any other animal. He is an evolved monkey!

It is the ability to abstract, to develop ethics and morals, to act against the natural survival instinct when it is the right thing to do which differentiates man. Acting with a view to the long term, sometimes for beyond his personal lifespan is a product of this ability to think and act that makes him into what he is. How does man develop this thinking? What is the process that brings him to this understanding?

Man starts by contemplating his surroundings and environment. He tries to understand the systems that operate in this marvelous world, follows the causes of the observed phenomena to their source, tries to decipher God’s thoughts in creating and setting all this in place. It is in this process that he develops the vision for the future; he becomes a prophet and acts in accordance with the views of a seer.

How does this perfected individual know that he is doing the right thing? How does he know that the conclusions of his meditative state are the truth and reality? How much delusion and wishful thinking, how much narcissism and self interest is mixed in with the good intentions? Even more, maybe he misinterpreted? Maybe he misunderstood God’s will? Maybe he went against the way things were supposed to be? Did he act destructively when he thought he did the right thing?

The answer to all these doubts is the outcome. It is only the successful outcome that will tell if he was right. All man can do is act in good faith and hope that he is doing the right thing. That is the purpose of Torah and Mitzvot.

יב לֵב טָהוֹר, בְּרָא-לִי אֱלֹהִים; וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן, חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי.

12 Create me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

יג אַל-תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ; וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ, אַל-תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי.

13 Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy spirit from me.

Man has to look deeply within himself and make sure that he is pure, that he is truly seeking out God and looking at His ways, His holy spirit. But ultimately, a good outcome is the real proof that he has acted correctly.

The Avot, the patriarchs, and Moshe Rabbeinu set out to create a nation of servants of God. As Rambam puts it in MN3:51 “it was the chief aim of their whole life, to create a people that should know and worship God”. But they were full of doubt. Every single one of them at some point was filled with doubts and God had to assuage their fears. Avraham in the Brit Bein Habetarim, Yitzchak when confronted with the Yaakov- Eisav dilemma and Yaakov during his confrontation with Eisav, they all questioned their actions. The survival of their descendants as a nation of servants of God is the only vindication and proof that they were right. Whenever Klal Yisrael is faced with annihilation, it brings forth the Patriarchs and asks God how He can allow this to happen. Were they all wrong?

Moshe when confronted with the disaster of the Egel, the Golden Calf, and the Jewish people were at risk of being destroyed, whether spiritually or physically, could not accept that possibility.

כו וָאֶתְפַּלֵּל אֶל-יְהוָה, וָאֹמַר, אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה אַל-תַּשְׁחֵת עַמְּךָ וְנַחֲלָתְךָ, אֲשֶׁר פָּדִיתָ בְּגָדְלֶךָ--אֲשֶׁר-הוֹצֵאתָ מִמִּצְרַיִם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה.

26 And I prayed unto the LORD, and said: 'O Lord GOD, destroy not Thy people and Thine inheritance that Thou hast redeemed through Thy greatness that Thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

כז זְכֹר, לַעֲבָדֶיךָ--לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק, וּלְיַעֲקֹב: אַל-תֵּפֶן, אֶל-קְשִׁי הָעָם הַזֶּה, וְאֶל-רִשְׁעוֹ, וְאֶל-חַטָּאתוֹ.

27 Remember Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin;

כח פֶּן-יֹאמְרוּ, הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתָנוּ מִשָּׁם, מִבְּלִי יְכֹלֶת יְהוָה, לַהֲבִיאָם אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר לָהֶם; וּמִשִּׂנְאָתוֹ אוֹתָם, הוֹצִיאָם לַהֲמִתָם בַּמִּדְבָּר.

28 lest the land whence You brought us out say: Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which He promised unto them, and because He hated them, He hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.

Invoking the past is a way of saying that all these dedicated and visionary people cannot and should not be proven wrong.

I could not resist one last post before taking off, especially since it fits so neatly into this week’s Parsha.

וְדָבָר בְּעִתּוֹ מַה-טּוֹב.

A timely word, how good is it!

That and a little insomnia!

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