The primary wisdom is fear of HASHEM… (Tehillim 111)
Look at three things and you will not come into the grip of sin. Know what
is above from you. 1) A seeing eye 2) An ear that hears 3) All of your
deeds are written in a book. (Chapters of the Fathers 2:1)
In advance of the arrival of Rosh Hashana we might wish to ask ourselves
what is meant by the books of “life” and “death” that the Talmud tells us
are open during these days of awe.
Occasionally I have asked audiences, “What’s the difference between me and
Steven Spielberg?” The usual answer is, “$250 million!” Let me qualify
the question. What’s the difference between us in the following way; Let
us say that we just came back from an exotic vacation. We invite to our
house a group of our closest friends, for an evening of relaxation. I call
everyone to watch a one hour video which includes all the footage of our
last trip. There we are in front of some ancient icon, standing next to a
native, or riding on the back of some semi-domesticated beast. Guaranteed,
that not 10 minutes into the presentation people will begin to invent
different excuses to leave. I can promise that these people will be very
hesitant to accept another invite to our house again.
Steven Spielberg makes a movie and millions of people all over the world
are willing to pay $15 a pop to see a 3and ½ hours epic film that
nauseates, scares, and wows them out of their minds. They can’t wait for
the next movie to be released and they’ll pay again just to see the movie
about how the movie was made.
What’s the difference between his movie and mine? I have effectively
alienated even my best friends. He has managed to attract a myriad of
strangers. What turned people off from my presentation? The movie sadly
had no beginning, no middle, and most painfully no end, just a bunch of
sound and fury signifying nothing. When picking up my camera I had no
prior thought about who might be seeing this film. I just shot away.
Steven Spielberg doesn’t just pick up a camera and shoot. He invests time
reviewing scripts and analyzing plots all the while keeping in mind the
psyche of his target audience. Eventually he confronts a story he feels
will touch them profoundly. Then he begins to plan out how to produce
these 145 scenes that if played out in sequence will have the desired
effect. Then and only then do the cameras begin to roll. He may shoot a
scene hundreds of times sparing no expense to get it right. Finally after
everything is done the creative process of editing begins. 95% of the
collected footage goes to the cutting room floor and the remainder is a
few hours of imaginative magic for his audience’s delight.
The Nefesh HaChaim writes that the meaning of the phrase, “know what is
above from you” is to be understood to mean, “Know that what is above,
forever, is from you!” The good news and the bad news is that whatever we
do is forever. The Talmud tells us that the wise one sees what will
result in the future! It doesn’t mean that he can pick stocks. No! It
means that he envisions and anticipates the farthest future, in front of
Whom will every detail of our lives be displayed forever? The Talmud
tells us that the goals of wisdom are; 1) Repentance and 2) Good deeds. To
upgrade the analogy; transcendent- wisdom enables us to do two things; 1)
Film further and 2) Edit. Therefore, at each moment of life we have our
whole future and past before us.
Haphazard living without some measure of supernal awareness produces dead
time that is disconnected from a lasting purpose. Those moments, though,
whether prayerful or pedestrian which were lived or relived with a healthy
reverence for the “eye that sees”, will likely live forever and yield
unimaginable thrills in a theatre near you.