CREATION: A RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS (1:1)
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same
hospital room. One man’s bed was next to
the room's only window, the other’s was not. They talked for hours on end. They
spoke of their wives and families, their homes, jobs, and where they had
when the man by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing
all the things he could see outside. His roommate began to live for those hours
when his world would be broadened and enlivened. The window overlooked a park
with a lovely lake. Graceful swans glided on the water while teenagers sailed
their model boats. Young children played amidst flowers of every color.
Days and weeks
passed. One night, the man by the window
died peacefully in his sleep. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other
fellow asked if he could be moved to the window. The nurse was happy to make
the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly he propped himself up to take his
first look at the real world. He looked out the window. It faced a blank wall.
The man asked
the nurse what could have compelled the deceased to portray and create a
make-believe world. The nurse responded
that the man was in fact blind. “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”
tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situation. Shared
grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared is doubled. If you want to
feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy. Today is a
gift; that is why it is called the PRESENT.
According to a recent survey, the number
one thing that people lack is happiness. Why is it so hard to be
happy? How come so many find life impossible to cope with? Imagine for a
moment, that someone gave you a unique, priceless, gift. You open it, you
start using it, and you begin to discover its features and abilities. You
barely glance at the small paperback manual that comes bundled inside.
You might skim it, but like most you throw it away or put it on a shelf.
After a while you start to notice that
things are not working perfectly. In fact, it’s getting worse. You go to
a specialist to fix up your life, put it all back together and regain joy. He
shows you a copy of that small forgotten manual. You read it and for the very
first time you find clarity and direction.
This week we start reading the Torah from
the beginning. How many times have we heard its first words and really
understood the phrase, “In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth.”
The Torah is much more than a book of
instructions or laws; it's a MANUAL OF LIFE. G-d could have just listed the
commandments, making sure that we are getting them done. But G-d also wants us
to add flavor and depth to our lives, hence His introduction.
What is the secret to happiness? It
should be simple: We are happy when life works out how we want it to. If
I want to go to Israel and I arrive at Ben Gurion airport, I will be
happy. If I end up having to stay at home, I will be unhappy.
Unhappiness is a result of our desires conflicting with reality. We
become angry and upset when our hopes or expectations are dashed. So here
is the ticket to happiness. We don't have much control over the universe, but
we do have the ability to select our wants and desires. So you want to be
happy? Have realistic expectations. You want to be a millionaire?
Ask yourself whether it is realistic.
Let’s be honest. One person might believe
that winning the lottery is realistic, another might still believe that he will
find the unattainable woman. Reality is not how we would like to define
it. Reality is defined by Torah. If you set your expectations according
to the MANUAL OF LIFE, if you define your reality in accordance with that true
reality, you will never know of fear or worry in your life. G-d wrote the Torah
not just as a guide for us, it’s the blueprint for all life and the entire
universe. Reality, nature and Mazal follow the Torah, not the other way
In His very first words, G-d shares a
critical, and often overlooked, detail of creation. G-d purposefully created a
dichotomy, heaven and earth. Two different realms: good and evil, truth
and falsehood, the physical and the spiritual. And though these forms seem
complete opposites, they are not in conflict, for G-d and the universe do not
In regards to these contrary domains, He
created the heaven first in order for it to rule the earth. We therefore
might translate the opening verse as, “G-d first created the spiritual
heavens and only then the physical earth.”
In Torah there are no
contradictions. If life ever seems to diverge from your being happy, if
we are ever anxious or experiencing stress, it is because we have forgotten the
opening line of His manual. We have forgotten that our physical existence
is subservient to our spiritual lives.
This is the foundation of
everything. Chassidus tells us that in truth the physical world is only a
veneer of reality. G-d’s creative energies have to continuously compel the
fragile framework of physicality into an illusion that it is a more powerful
entity than the spiritual energy that gives it shape.
All stress in our lives is a result of
having an erroneous perspective and unrealistic expectations. In order to
live a happy and fulfilled life, we must set our expectations to the blueprint
of the Torah. We must put heaven before earth, we need to fit our lives
into the reality of the Torah rather than trying to fit the Torah into our
There is another lesson we should learn
from the opening words of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Life, the Torah. Every so
often a company like Microsoft launches another version of Windows. But
before it is finished it is in the Beta stage. Beta is when a company
sends the unfinished product to many individuals, who test it, send feedback,
and help them fix all the problems. If you would take a closer look at your
Life’s manual, you would notice that our world too has the words ‘Beta’ written
all over it. The universe G-d created is not the finished product.
The second Torah passage reads, “The spirit
of G-d hovered above…” If you were building a home, wouldn’t you
enter it? Wouldn’t you go and live it in it? Yet He hovers above
it. Why? Because His world was incomplete. He is waiting for
us to finish the job. How can we improve that which He has personally
created? By testing the world and
identifying its bugs so that it is perfect for it’s big launch, the coming of
Moshiach and the completion of creation: Universe 1.0
Until then we do our job...happily.
A Lesson from two Failures
not tolerate selfishness or central planning. What then is the basis of a
A Lesson from two Failures
The two great epochs
of human history described in this week’s portion are not mere historical
accounts but rather they are portraits of a classic human dilemma that persists
till today. It is therefore no accident that these two time periods dissect
this Biblical reading precisely in half. The first seventy seven verses
deal with the life of Noach prior to the promise of, “This is the sign of the covenant.” And immediately following
the appearance of the rainbow and a new world order we are told the story of
the succeeding generations and their attempt at building the Tower of Babel...in
exactly seventy seven verses.
The flood was brought
upon the world because of robbery and immorality. Where bridges of trust might
have been built, gridlock occurred as competing interests collided. The fabric
of society thus frayed and became irreparably eroded due to rampant individual
selfishness. Ultimately, with no central authority, anarchy flourished. This is the picture of pre-Deluge humanity which
till today remains a model of societal failure.
The next great era was
a response to the prior. The age of corruption and thievery was washed away by
the powerful waves of the Flood. A sense
of tranquility and brotherhood reigned as all put aside their personal
agendas to rally around a symbol of unified strength and common goals.
A tower would be built to correct the problems associated with the chaotic
past. Thus a king arose who herded everyone together. An iron curtain was
created to hem humanity into a single location and the Tower of Babel
became the showpiece of man’s new spirit
of cooperation. Yet this experiment in creating the paradigm of what a community should be
disintegrated and toppled like a
house of cards. Why?
not one person is mentioned by name in the recording of that event. Instead we
are informed that, “Come let us build a city and a tower with its
head in the heavens and let us
make a name for ourselves.” The achievement and the accolades
were for the group. Individual identities were to be rendered meaningless and
merged automatically with the purposes dictated by the whole. Our Sages expressed it this way: when a brick
fell down people agonized because of the lost material, but when a person died
in the process of building they carried on without acknowledgment.
These two stages in
human development represent the ongoing human dilemma. When the individual
enjoys unfettered freedom and society places supreme value on personal
happiness, then lawlessness prevails and the goals of humanity as a whole are
frustrated. Conversely, when society is all-powerful the individual suffers.
All his personal ambitions are squelched
his talents are sacrificed, and his liberties are repressed for the sake
of the state made holy above all.
What then is more
important? The individual or the society! Is this not the the debate of every political election? Is
this not the argument that has worried us since 9/11 as we try to balance security with personal liberty? And
is this not the cause of much of the struggle in the world today?
The answer is simple
and difficult. The answer is Abraham, the Jew. After the dispersion of the
Tower builders, the first patriarch appears on the Biblical horizon. How does
Abraham’s life show us the solution? Because even with the Torah’s focus on one
person and his extraordinary accomplishments, it does not mean that the
pendulum has swung back to a time when selfish individuals occupy center stage.
Neither is Abraham who is called and revered by his neighbors as, “The Most High, Maker of heaven and earth”
a megalomaniacal tyrant. But if Abraham’s life is not either extreme, neither
is it the healthy compromise of the two. The answer is a radical departure: An
existence that does not include selfishness or dictatorship, but rather a life
of service. Because a society of
Abraham-like people would produce a qualitatively different world order that
would address everyone’s private needs as well as the general public.
How can such service
oriented individuals be produced and how can they appreciate that they too
would benefit? Listen to the following story. The saintly Chofetz Chaim once
softly rebuked two students who came late to class one day. It was not the
lateness that was the issue. Each had retrieved a chair after realizing that
all seats in the room were occupied. The Chofetz Chaim pointed out to them the
lost opportunity. If each would have gotten a chair for the other, both would
have had a chair and both would have had an act of kindliness. This was the principle of thoughtfulness and
kindness exhibited by Abraham. It was this new order upon which our Jewish
heritage and communities were built!
BABEL: ON REACHING HEAVEN (11:4)
Only when G-d is G-d can man be man. That
means keeping heaven and earth distinct.
BABEL: ON REACHING HEAVEN (11:4)
The story of a Tower rising in the valley of Shinar
is central to the Biblical vision of what can go wrong in society. The story
itself, told in a mere nine verses, is a compact masterpiece of literary and
philosophical virtuosity. The first thing to note is that its historical
background is exceptionally precise. The tower or ziggurat was the great symbol
of the ancient Mesopotamian city states. It was here that human beings first
settled, established agriculture, built cities, and invented (along with the
wheel, the arch and the calendar) the ability to manufacture building
materials, especially bricks. This made possible the construction of buildings
on a larger scale, which came to have a profound religious significance.
Essentially these towers, of which the remains of at
least thirty have been discovered, were man-made “holy mountains,” the mountain
being the place where heaven and earth most visibly met. Inscriptions on
several of these buildings refer, as does the Torah, to the idea that their top
Not only is the story of Babel historically accurate. It is also shot
through with literary devices. One of the most masterly is that the two key
words, לבן-brick, and נבל-confuse,
are precise inversions of one another. As so often in the Torah, literary
technique is closely related to a deeper message. In this case it is the
phenomenon of inversion itself; the results of human behavior are often
the opposite of what was intended. The builders wanted to concentrate humanity
in one place, “And not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
The result was that, “The L-rd scattered them over the face of the whole
Their pride lay in their newfound technological
ability to construct buildings of unprecedented grandeur. They did not realize
that the greatest creative power is language (“And G-d said . . . and there
was”). Thus it was not a technical problem that caused them to abandon the
project, but the loss of the ability to communicate. What is holy for the Torah
is not power but the use to which it is put, the medium in which we frame our
ideals, construct imaginative possibilities, and call others to join us in
realizing them. The word is prior to the work.
What though was the builder’s sin? To understand we
must return to Genesis and its description of creation. Two words in that
account are decisive. The first is טוב/tov-good, which appears seven times. G-d says, “Let
there be,” and G-d sees, “That it is good.” Creation is not about
the power of G-d but about the goodness He provided in the universe. This is an
extraordinary statement. For the ancients saw the world as a dangerous and
threatening place, full of dangers, disasters, famines and floods, a result of
clashing gods. Against this, Judaism made the astonishing assertion that the
world is good. It is the result not of blind collisions or random mutations,
but of a single creative Will. This alone set Judaism apart as the most hopeful
of the world’s faiths.
There is another key word הבדיל/hivdil-to separate, which appears five times in
Creation (light & dark, upper & lower waters, etc), signifying that the
goodness of the universe is due to order and boundaries. So important was this idea that we have a
special ceremony, havdalah, to mark the end of Shabbat and the beginning
of each week. Like G-d, we begin our creative weekdays by havdalah:
Creation itself is seen as the slow emergence of order
from chaos. An ordered universe is a peaceable universe in which every being
has its proper place. Violence, injustice and conflict are forms of disorder, a
failure to respect the integrity of others. The pagan world of old was one in
which boundaries were not observed. There were human beings who were like gods
and gods who were like human beings. There were strange mythological hybrids,
like the sphinx, half human, half animal. Religious ecstasy was often
accompanied by a ceremonial breaking of boundaries in various ways. So while
G-d created order, man created chaos.
That was the sin of the builders of the tower. Their
aspiration to “reach heaven” was laughable, and indeed the Torah makes a
joke of it. They imagined that their edifice had reached heaven, whereas G-d
had to, “Come down.” However it
was worse than laughable. The Tower was the world’s first construct into
totalitarianism in order to control the masses. Intoxicated by their
technological prowess, the builders of Babel
believed they had become like gods and could now construct their own Cosmo
polis, their man-made miniature universe. Not content with earth, they wanted
to build an abode in heaven.
When human beings try to become more than human, they
quickly become less than human. Only when G-d is G-d can man be man. That means
keeping heaven and earth distinct, organizing the latter only under the
conscious sovereignty of the former. Without this there is little to prevent
human beings from sacrificing the many on the altar of the State which sees
itself above the law (after all, the State has reached Heaven).
Babel was the first civilization, but sadly not the last,
to begin with a dream of utopia and end in a nightmare of hell. A world of tov-good
is a world of havdalah-limits. Those who cross those boundaries make a
name for themselves, but they name they make is Babel-confusion.
How High Have We Gone? (11:1)
Meet the fellow who slept cross-wise on his bed since
it provided the illusion that he had grown taller.
How High Have We Gone? (11:1)
Man had fallen so low
that it no longer seemed possible for punishment to serve merely as a deterrent
or a warning. What evil had the human race perpetrated that it was perceived as
unredeemable and thus slated for destruction? According to the Torah, “The
land was corrupted before G-d, and the land was filled with violence.”
The word used for
violence, Chamas, is explained by Rashi to mean robbery. It was on this chaos that the flood descended, laying the
world bare and ready for a new beginning.
If we read further on
in this week's Biblical portion, it seems as if man had finally learned his
lesson. The generation that built the Tower of Babel
exemplified the opposite behavior. They organized a social system under which
men suppressed all private interests for the common good.
Yet, if one but
peruses the various commentaries, it becomes obvious that in their opinion, the
children were in fact repeating the sins of their fathers. The only thing that
changed was their methods, for now they were far more efficient.
In truth, the
generation at Babel
had no interest in reaching heaven and its values. Their intent was to keep
heaven at bay.
Quoting Rashi once
again we come across this comment, "After the flood, the people
calculated that 1656 years had lapsed since the beginning of time till the
Flood. As a result they declared that once every 1656 years the heavens
crumbled and caused a catastrophe."
Imagine that! The
Flood had occurred but once and already it was reduced to a natural phenomenon,
one within man's power to foretell and forestall. Thus the verse describing
their efforts, “Let us make a tower with its top to the heavens... lest we be scattered,” suddenly makes
Like the robbers and
thieves of the generation prior to the Flood, they desired no moral
interferences from Above. So while man had made enormous technical progress,
there was no spiritual growth. This can be compared to the man who would sleep
cross-wise on his bed since this gave him the pleasing illusion that he had
grown taller. In reality, his stature remained the same; only his position was
Today as we rocket to
the stars and distant galaxies, it might be worthwhile to consider how much
further we really have traveled.
JEW is an ARTIST (9:27)
is the true purpose of Jewish art?
JEW is an ARTIST (9:27)
Which of these statements is true? 1)
Torah has been an inspiration for Jewish art. 2) Torah severely
discourages and limits the use of art.
On the one hand, Moses introduced the idea
that G-d should be “adorned” with beautiful religious implements. (Exodus 15:2) The
first artists (Betzalel and company) mentioned in the Bible were contracted to
design a Sanctuary for G-d. (Exodus 35:31)
Inference: Decorative items for ritual purposes are firmly
rooted within Judaism.
On the other hand, the Second Commandment
reads, “You shall not make any graven image, or any likeness of anything
that is in the heaven above, or the earth below.” Implication:
Judaism is antagonistic to art. But, upon further study, this verse forbids
imagery only if used for idol worship. True, the text does not specifically
permit representational art for other purposes; and hence the ambiguity
concerning the propriety of artistic endeavor.
Surprisingly, human figures do appear in
3rd century Syrian synagogue murals. However, Jewish visual art did not acquire
a ‘Kosher’ stamp, until the 11th century, when Rashi allowed two-dimensional
wall frescoes depicting Biblical scenes. (Shabbos,
149a) In the next century, Maimonides
permitted three-dimensional animal sculptures. (Avodas Kochavim.3:10-11)
In Medieval Europe, religious intolerance
excluded Jews from the world of art. Western art was Christian art commissioned
by the Church or nobility. So instead of painting and sculpture, artistically
talented Jews used art for utilitarian purposes: to make a living. They became
jewelers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, engravers, ceramicists, weavers,
embroiderers, glassblowers, wood-carvers, calligraphers, and illustrators of
Kabbalistically speaking, creative expression
can be traced back to the Biblical persona of Noach. When spelled
in reverse, Noach (נח) becomes Chen (חן), meaning grace or beauty.
CheN itself is an acronym for CHochmat
Nistar, hidden wisdom. CheN
thus denotes inner beauty.
Of Noach’s three sons, we read, “G-d
shall enlarge Yafet. He shall dwell in the tents of Shem. Cham
shall be their servant.” The name Yafet, the progenitor of Greek and
Western civilization, is related to the word Yafa, visible or surface
beauty, while Shem correlates to Shma, hearing,
and Cham to CHomer, matter and tactility.
Just as Noach’s family includes three sons, so too CHen, true artistic beauty must
incorporate these three modalities; the visual, aural, and tangible.
In different cultures, one modality tends
to dominate. Ancient ethnic art is largely tactile, albeit symbolic (i.e.,
African masks from the family of Cham). Modern Western art is
primarily visual. Jewish art, CHen,
requires a union of modalities. Example: At the climactic Giving of the Torah
at Sinai, “The people heard that which was normally seen and saw that which
was usually heard.” In Judaism, the sense of sight is not always
limited to surface perception. It is associated with insight.
While, most cultures see the external and hear the internal, in Judaism, the
opposite is true. Panim, face and P’nim, internal
are the same word.
This dynamic interplay of the aural and
visual, where perception penetrates beyond the surface to the interior, is
essential to Jewish art. So though G-d’s “enlarging of Yafet” allowed
Cyrus, a descendants of Yafet, to build the Second Temple, the Divine
Presence was manifest only in the First Temple which King Solomon built.
Though Yafet, the master of the
visual arts “constructed a glorious edifice,” (Succot 51b) he could not create a
perfect beauty. Only King Solomon’s First Temple, the epitome of
splendor, actualized the ideal of CHen. For Jewish art not only
combines the different senses, it connects the physical and spiritual
dimensions of our lives.
Thus the words for spirit, ruach (רוח) and matter, chomer (חמר) are intimately related when inverted. (In
Kabbalah, the letters ‘vav’ and ‘mem’ are also interchangeable.)
Whereas in certain traditions you have to renounce physicality in order to
attain spirituality, in Judaism they are essentially one. Jewish art,
then, is about the spiritual nature of one’s encounter with the physical world.
This unique interchange necessitates an active involvement on behalf of the
viewer, since Jewish art is a multi-media, all-involvement event. Compare the
passive spectator of traditional Western theatre to a Passover Seder. We follow
a Haggada, but it is not a text in the classic sense. We drink four cups of
wine, we cry over bitter herbs, we chase an Afikomen. The audience and the
performers are the same people. It is a multi-sensory, multi-media event.
The Temple in Jerusalem embodied that same
totality of experience. One smelled the incense, ate the sacrifices, heard the
Levites singing, etc. Thus the Sanctuary established the essential
prototype of Jewish art: 1) Man does not create for the sake of art
alone; 2) art reveals the spiritual in the physical, the ruach in
Sadly enough, true Jewish art did not
flourish during much of our history. Many non-Jewish factors contributed to
this phenomenon. Under Islamic rule, much of art was off-limits. In the
Christian world, the illiterate masses required pictures, while Jewish children
who could read the Biblical stories made depiction unnecessary. A more
encompassing reason: Unlike churches, ornate art in synagogues did not exist
because of political and economic weakness of Jewish communities, plus their
own desire not to draw attention.
In the twentieth century, Jews are no
longer restricted by the outside world. Consequently, Jewish artists have
proliferated. The Rebbe addressed one such artist. “The essential quality of an
artist is his ability to detach himself from the superficial appearance of the
image ... [and] penetrate the true essence of the object and transform his
impression into a picture with physical dimensions.
“This artistic production reveals to the
viewer that which he could not recognize on his own, an essence that was
obscured by superficial layers. Only an artist has the skill to reveal the
inner dimensions of an object, thus enabling the observer to see it with a
different perspective, and to realize the limitations of his previous
”In short, one who is divinely gifted,
whether in sculpture, painting or another artistic endeavor, has the privilege
of being able to convert inanimate objects (such as paint, brush and canvas)
into a vital form. In a deeper sense, this implies the ability to transform the
material into the spiritual…In the esoteric teachings of the Torah the entire
creation emanates from, and is constantly sustained by, the word of G-d.
However, because of the process of divine concealment, His word is hidden, and
only the material substance is visible.
“Therefore, the challenge (as well as the
goal) is to
become aware of the
G-dliness extant in all objects, and in so doing, minimize the concealment of
the true G-dly reality.” (Igros Kodesh,
Vol. 4, p. 223)
This is the true purpose of Jewish art, and indeed, of
all life. In that sense, every Jew is required to be an artist.
EXPERIENCING LIFE or LIVING IT?
in the footsteps of Adam. Big mistake!
EXPERIENCING LIFE or LIVING IT?
After saving humanity and the animal
kingdom from oblivion, Noah is given no rest. Once again he is charged with a
Divine mission; rebuild civilization! So the one time shipbuilder and zookeeper
embarks on a new project. He plants a vineyard. Unfortunately, it did not end
there. He becomes drunk and uncovers himself in his tent. What is the meaning
behind this strange episode? Why did Noah, formerly called “a saint and
perfectly complete,” start drinking?
Could it simply be that Noah cracked under
the strain? Was this Noah's method of
dealing with a completely devastated world?
Instead of joining the Twelve-Step Program, he went for the bottle! This
may be an all-too-familiar human failing, but for Noah! One who “walked with G-d”! Could Noah
not have opened an AA chapter!
One more question. Noah lived another 350
years after the flood. Yet, we are told absolutely nothing of what he did
during all this time, save the one incident of his intoxication. Since Torah
stories serve as a blueprint for life, it follows that Noah's drinking is
relevant today. How so?
The Talmud provides a hint. Some 1,500
years before Noah, Adam and Eve betrayed G-d's explicit command by eating the
fruit of The Tree of Knowledge. The
results were life-changing. Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, while
struggle, pain and death became the plight of the human condition. One Talmudic opinion is that the tree was a
grapevine. Eve squeezed the grapes and presented Adam with a goblet of wine. So
G-d said: Noah, you should have
learned from Adam. Here we learn of a link between Adam and Noah. Both
degraded and debased themselves through wine. The great foundational work of
Kabbala, the Zohar, takes this a step further. Noah was determined to fix
Adam’s mistake by redefining the act of drinking. Unfortunately, he also
Let’s retrace history. What was so
tempting about the Tree of Knowledge? True, “It was a delight to the eyes,
and attractive as a means to wisdom.” But was this the only attractive tree
in Paradise? Answer: This tree was not
merely tasty, delightful and attractive. It embodied the very experience of
taste, delight and attraction. Originally, Adam & Eve did not feel
themselves; they lacked self-consciousness. They did not experience taste,
delight or attraction - because they did not experience themselves.
It is difficult for us today to comprehend
what this even means. We, who process all of life via awareness of the self,
cannot appreciate man’s psyche prior to the forbidden fruit. In fact, in our
culture, a person who does not experience himself is seen as dysfunctional and
is sent to a therapist. In truth, Original Man’s lack of self was a symptom of
the ultimate healthy life.
How do you know when your body is healthy?
When you don't feel it! When you feel a body part - because of pain or for any
other reason - it is a sign that something is wrong. The healthier the body,
the less you sense it. This is true not
only in respect to our physical; it is equally valid for our psyche. How do you
know when your psyche is healthy? When you don't feel it! Artists are keenly
aware of this axiom. When writers or musicians cease to be conscious of their
existence as an independent entity, when they solely experience themselves as
conduits for a deeper creative spirit, it is then that the artist performs
best. His self has seamlessly merged
with his work. They are not separate.
Another example: A two-year-old playing in
the mud. Ask him: Do you feel good about your life? Do you feel worthwhile? The
toddler will look at you strangely, implying: How would I know; I'm too busy
living. When you're busy living life, the "you" does not
occupy independent space. This was man’s initial condition. But Eve was
tempted. The snake stopped her in her tracks and offered her the one thing she
The Hebrew term for knowledge-da’as,
can also be translated as experience. Eve now encountered
for the first time something completely unfamiliar - the reality of experience.
Eve learned that a human being could experience reality in terms of “I
like; I feel; I crave.” Till then, she had not experienced
life; she was living it. So Eve and her husband reasoned that this would
be a better way to live and thus serve G-d. They decided to experience what
it was like to have an experience. So they partook of the Tree of
This also explains G-d’s question to Adam,
“Ayekah! Where are you!” At first glance, this seems strange. Was
G-d truly ignorant of Adam's location? No! G-d’s “Where are you?”
contained a profound psychological query. Until then, Adam knew exactly who he
was. He was one with life, one with the music and rhythm of reality. He was
unaware of how he was feeling because he did not feel himself. But once he ate
from the Tree, he began to experience his “I” as a
detached, separate existence. At that moment, he - and by extension, us -
became consumed: Am I happy or miserable? Do I like myself? Am I secure? Am
I normal? So G-d asked, "Where are you? Where have you gone? How
did you get so lost from yourself?”
Until then, the first human beings, “were
naked and they were not embarrassed.” But now, they were ashamed of their
nudity. When there is no sense of self or ego, being naked does not matter. You
are as innocent as a naked newborn, and similarly unembarrassed. But when Adam
& Eve began to experience themselves, they could no longer ignore their
The birth of the human ego, man's
perception of a self divorced from G-d’s intentions for humanity, became the
root of moral degeneration and led to the total destruction of civilization. So
Noah decided to go back to the source of the problem and fix it. Noah reasoned
that Adam & Eve used wine as a means to experience themselves; he would use
wine as a means to forget about himself. They savored every drop, relishing the
experience of having an experience. Noah would drink in order to cease
having experiences; he would become drunk, uncover himself, and become one with
Many alcoholics and addicts have followed
Noah’s path. Like him, they hoped to liberate themselves of their
self-conscious perceptions. Noah's intentions may have been profound. But the
results were horrible. Intoxication only gives one the illusion of
self-transcendence; in reality it merely confuses the mind and alienates the
drinker from feeling what is going on inside his self.
So what path leads to self-redemption?
We’re no longer innocent. The paradise of Adam & Eve no longer exists. The
stupor of Noah also holds no answers. Is there any hope for man? A few
hundred years later, another individual planted grapevines. Abraham “planted
an orchard in Be’er-Sheva, and there he proclaimed the name of Hashem, G-d of
the universe.” Abraham understood that we cannot escape the self. Our job
is to search through the self, and discover in the very vestige of self, the
hidden light of G-d. That story
will be told next week.
FROM A PAGE IN NOACH'S DIARY (9:2)
If we truly do live by the law of the
jungle, what prevents man from becoming the hunted?
FROM A PAGE IN NOACH'S DIARY (9:2)
among the ancient ones, I would be considered old. Having now lived over 600 years, I have seen
many changes, including the advent of idolatry, the invention of musical instruments,
the growth of the world's population and all the problems associated with "progress". I
thought I had seen it all. But this past
year…with the Flood and all, you can imagine.
my age, to be responsible for all the thousands of birds and beasts is no
picnic: Each one demanding specific foods at different times. You see this limp that I got, that's from the
lion that once kicked me when I was late with dinner. And the stench, you wouldn’t believe it.
the most part however, I got along with the animals fairly well. Maybe it should all be attributed to the
promise G-d made to Adam that man shall have, “Dominion over the fish, over the fowl, over the cattle and over every
creature that creeps upon the planet.”
I can’t understand is why now, after the Flood, G-d has decided to place, “The fear and dread of man
upon every beast?” Why the need for
this fundamental change that sets up this unbridgeable chasm between humans and
me share with you one of my innermost thoughts on the subject, and you - Dear
Diary - can keep it for the sake of posterity.
At first, man being created, “in
the image of G-d” was pretty close to perfect. Even the animals sensed that Adam possessed a
spiritual entity that made him - and the human race alone - worthy of being the
Creator’s guardian upon earth. Man,
under Divine direction, was to “work and
guard” the planet, bringing all that was in it closer to G-d and to
over the years man changed. As he
behaved more and more like an animal, his G-dly image became dulled. Soon Homo sapiens resembled nothing more
that a two-legged creature and even the animals knew it. Following the rule of the jungle whereby the
strong rules the weak (and most beasts are stronger than man) G-d has to now
place a fear of humans upon the animal, lest man become the hunted. Thus, man’s primary role has changed from
perfecting the world to first perfecting himself in order to regain the image
is all theory, you understand. But if I am right, I guess I should tell my
children about this. So let me go and I'll talk to you tomorrow.