Shhhhhh… The Secret of Immortality
By Rabbi Label Lam
A lion cub is Judah… He crouches, lies down like a lion, and like an
awesome lion, who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah
till Shiloh (Moshiach) arrives… (Breishis 49:9-10)
Judah, from amongst all the tribes, was forecasted to make it till the end
of times. What quality did he and does he yet possess, that has granted
him that kind of longevity? Perhaps in the very blessing of Jacob we have
a clue. Why is Judah both a mature lion and a whelp, a baby cub?
Mark Twain wrote an article in 1899 for Harper Magazine
entitled, “Concerning the Jews”. Here is an excerpt I’m sure many are
already familiar with: “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute
but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star
dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to
be heard of; but he is heard of; has always been heard of. He is as
prominent on the planet as any other people…He has made a marvelous fight
in this world, in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind
him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it…The Egyptian, the
Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and
splendor, then faded to the dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the
Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples
have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but burned it out, and
they sit in twilight now or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, be
at them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no infirmities of
age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of
his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all
other forces pass but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
An archeologist in Israel came upon something rather surprising while
digging one day. He was certain that he had just unearthed the next Dead
Sea Scrolls. No doubt fame and fortune awaited him. There were a number of
tiny scrolls tucked ever so carefully into small compartments and he
couldn’t wait to return to the lab to analyze and publicize what he had
found. He carefully placed the delicate parts into a plastic bag to
preserve them and then into a paper bag to disguise their value. He sat on
a bus now cradling his find with a parent’s devotion. Sitting next to him
was a man with a black hat and a beard who was also clutching a bag.
The archeologist could not contain his excitement. He asked his neighbor
if he wished to peak at his discovery. The fellow looked into the bag and
shook his head affirmatively. The archeologist was a little disturbed by
the lack of shared enthusiasm and so he told him that that these items
might be thousands of years old. Still unimpressed, the man opened for the
archeologist the bag he had been holding and showed him the same thing,
Tefillin, black boxes with parchments. “We wear them every day.” He told
him exactly what was written on those scrolls and so it was and has been
for 3319 years. They may have been very old but it was nothing new.
A psychologist friend who became observant was being chided by colleagues
and friends in a public forum as to how he could have become involved with
such medieval practices. He cleverly retorted, “It’s not medieval! It’s
Judah, the source of the title “Jew”, is like a valuable coin in that he
is both extremely old and still in mint condition. He is ancient but not a
relic ready for the British Museum. He’s also current- on the cutting edge
and yet connected to his ancient roots. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter ztl.
compared the young generation to an energetic train and the elders to
tracks. It’s only together that either has any practical function.
Like a lion- cub that is simultaneously old and vibrant, the Jewish
People who find in the ancient the very new and the new in the most
ancient hold the key to what could be shhhhh… the secret of immortality.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.