When I first arrived at the University of Michigan, a certain history professor was as-signed as my adviser. He was a religious Catholic from the Midwest. Looking over my tran-script, he exclaimed, “Oh, the Ethical Culture Society. That’s for Jews who are too embarrassed even to be Reform!”
Bullseye! And this from a Midwestern Catholic! How did he know all about us? The truth is, everyone knows about us. Jews are the most interesting people in the world.
I attended Ethical Culture from nursery through high school, as did my mother, her brothers and my siblings. The school was ninety-five percent Jewish, and one hundred percent of those Jews were running away from Hashem and His Torah. To this day (I recently attended a reunion), my classmates are completely divorced from any relationship with their holy ancestors and the Torah that has sustained us since the days of Avraham Avinu.
In this spider’s web I met the girl who was to become my wife. We were miraculously able to extricate ourselves from this quicksand into which so many of our brethren had been sucked. Drowning in meaninglessness, we knew we had to find reality, but we had no idea where to turn. Hashem heard our inner screams and rescued us.
And you think Jewish history goes by logic?
Have we not all had experiences that prove our lives are not controlled by nature, but rather by the Creator of nature?
Do the strong overpower the weak or is it the other way around?
Think about your week. What is the highlight? What gives it meaning? What gives your life meaning? On which day do angels visit your house?
The answer, of course, is Shabbos.
One day overpowers six days. No one needs to prove this; we all know it.
And you tell me it is impossible that Hashem “delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few”?
It’s not impossible at all. It happened on Chanukah. And throughout Jewish history. And in our own lives.
I would like to call your attention to the following passage from my second book, World-storm: Finding Meaning and Direction Amidst Today’s World Crisis. It begins with a remarkable Gemara (Taanis 8b): “Rabbi Isaac further said, ‘Blessing is only possible in things hidden from sight…. Blessing is only possible in things not under the direct control of the eye…. Blessing is not to be found in anything that has been already weighed or measured or numbered, but only in a thing hidden from sight.’ ”
Worldstorm goes on to discuss this passage.
In our contemporary world everything is counted, numbered and weighed, which is why we cannot perceive the spiritual. Comfort is measured by counting money. The value of men and ideas is determined by public opinion polls. The system of government and those who administer it are determined by counting votes. Wall Street is obsessed with counting the value of stocks. Corporations are obsessed with counting everything from paper clips to how many pennies per share they will earn four quarters from now. Sports fans are obsessed with count-ing home runs or baskets, and how much each player is paid. Health is measured in calories and cholesterol. Beauty is determined by the readout on the scale. China enforces a population quota, but a Jewish mother will not tell you the num-ber of her children nor will her husband count men for the minyan.
This discussion is crucial to our existence, and it deserves thought. Why is it that “bless-ing is not to be found in anything that has been already weighed or measured or numbered”?
What is blessing?
Blessing, berachah, comes from Above. It is God’s shemirah over us, His love expressed by the guidance of events in our life. God is exercising His direct influence by giving us what we need. When we live without berachah, God forbid, we are living a hefker existence, subject to arbitrary forces, like a leaf tossed around in the wind. We don’t want to be like the snake in Gan Eden, whose punishment really was that it always has what it needs. Hashem, so to speak, told the snake “I don’t ever want to hear from you. You are on your own.”
If we are under Hashem’s direct scrutiny and care and He directs internal and external forces in our favor, our life will be good in every way. This is what every person who has Yiras Shamayim wants: to live in such a way that Hashem will directly watch over him and take his fate in His Hands in order that he prosper spiritually and materially.
We want Hashem to be involved in our life. He is by definition in complete control. As the Rambam put it in his Thirteen Principles, “I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, creates and guides all creatures and that He alone made, makes and will make everything.” All nature, including time and space and everything within them, belongs to and was created by Him.
About the Author: Roy Neuberger's latest book, “2020 Vision” (Feldheim), is available in English, Hebrew and Spanish, with French and Russian editions in preparation. Roy is also the author of "From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul” (available in English, Hebrew and Rus-sian) and "Worldstorm.” Roy and his wife speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com.
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