A Powerful Message about Our Power!
By Rabbi Label Lam
Moshe sent them to scout the Land of Canaan, and he said to them, "Go up
this way in the south and climb up the mountain. You shall see what [kind
of] land it is, and the people who inhabit it; are they strong or weak? Are
there few or many? And what of the land they inhabit? Is it good or bad?
And what of the cities in which they reside are they in camps or in
fortresses? What is the soil like? Is it fat or lean? Are there any trees in
it or not? You shall be courageous and take from the fruit of the land." It
was the season when the first grapes begin to ripen. (Bamidbar 13:17-20)
Are they strong or weak? : He gave them a sign. If they live in open cities
[it is a sign that] they are strong, since they rely on their might. And if
they live in fortified cities [it is a sign that] they are weak. [Tanchuma
This Rashi is rather counter intuitive! We would think things should be just
the other way around. If they are in walled cities they are secure and if
they are in open encampments they are vulnerable and weak! What’s origin of
this notion? What’s the relevance?
When peaking back at the earliest moments of human history we find a curious
phenomenon. What was the first recorded human invention? Take a few moments
to think before answering. Some will guess fire but that’s not explicitly
related. Well surprisingly it’s clothing, albeit primitive and minimal. Adam
and Chava felt the need to cover-up with a fig leaf after they ingested the
forbidden fruit because their innocence was now lost. Prior to that moment
they were naked and without any shameful or selfish tendencies. Now,
however, afterwards, because of an inner weakness, a moral failing they
needed to shield themselves from themselves.
We live nowadays with a gross misconception- that because of the rise of
technology we are somehow superior to prior generations. We are learning
here that this is far from the truth. When we behold someone with a hearing
aid we are not likely to be inspired to jealousy. He needs a device on the
outside because his hearing has become diminished.
Somebody in need of a walker or wheelchair can be envious of those of us
that can still ambulate without assistance. When we see that person in a
hospital room is hooked up with tubes and wires galore it is a clear sign
that the inner tubing system is currently malfunctioning. The more hardware
required on the outside - the weaker the inner world!
The Czech Poet-President, Vaclav Havel made the following bold and keen
observation: “The dizzying development of this science, with its
unconditional faith in objective reality and its complete dependency on
general and rationally knowable laws, led to the birth of modern
technological civilization. It is the first civilization in the history of
the human race that spans the entire globe and firmly binds together all
human societies, submitting them to a common global destiny. It was this
science that enabled man, for the first time, to see Earth from space with
his own eyes; that is, to see it as another star in the sky.
At the same time, however, the relationship to the world that the modern
science fostered and shaped now appears to have exhausted its potential. It
is increasingly clear that, strangely, the relationship is missing
something. It fails to connect with the most intrinsic nature of reality and
with natural human experience…It produces what amounts to a state of
schizophrenia: Man as an observer is becoming completely alienated from
himself as a being…
Today for instance we may know immeasurably more about the universe than our
ancestors did, and yet, it increasingly seems they knew something more
essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.”
I recently came across a charming but alarming cartoon with two distinct
images! One depicts a cluster of people madly yapping on cell phones,
texting, net surfing, you name it! The other portrays a group of regular
folks but relaxed with smiles on their faces. The caption reads: “World
Population is Now Divided into Two Distinct Groups; ‘Communication Addiction
Victims’ and ‘People’!” A powerful message about our power!
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.