Friday, June 8, 2012

How to Deal with Economic Challenge

The "days" and "nights" of life
by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson

The Debate
An architect, a surgeon, and economist are arguing who of them holds the most prominent position.
The surgeon said, 'Look, we're the most important. The very first thing G-d did was surgery: to extract Eve from Adam's rib.'

The architect said, 'No, wait a minute, G-d is an architect first and foremost. G-d made the world in six days out of chaos.'

The economist smiled, 'And who made the chaos?’

The Dual Canopy
"On the day the Tabernacle was erected, the cloud covered the Tabernacle," the Bible records in the Torah portion of Behaalosecha (1). "Then, in the evening, there would be upon the Tabernacle like a fiery glow till morning."

"From then on it remained that way," the Torah continues. "The cloud would cover it [by day] and a glow of fire by night (2)."

Two points require clarification. First: What was the significance and purpose of this dual miraculous canopy that hovered over the Tabernacle in the desert -- a cloud during the day and a glowing flame during the night (3)?

Second: Like every episode recorded in the Bible, this one, too, contains a spiritual interpretation that continuously plays itself out in journeys of the human spirit. How can we apply the story of this Tabernacle canopy to our lives today?

Smugness Vs. Despair
The Tabernacle was the edifice erected by the people of Israel in the Sinai desert to serve as a home for the Divine presence. In Jewish writings, the Tabernacle represents the place in the human heart where the light of G-d resides (4). The Tabernacle, then, exists timelessly within the human soul.

This sacred and noble place within us, declares the Bible, must include both a cloud by day and a fire by night. Let us apply this practically:

Each person experiences in his or her life "days" and "nights" -- moments of light and moments of darkness, times of happiness and contentment as well as times of agony and turmoil. For some, the days are longer than the nights; for others the nights sadly exceed the days. Yet most humans possess a share of both realities.

Now, when things are going well for us -- when we're paying the bills nicely, the kids are healthy, our spouses are there for us and we're satisfied with our lot -- we often forget how vulnerable we really are in this world. We tend to become smug, complacent and desensitized. We often become apathetic to other people's pain. We don't feel the need for genuine friendships, and certainly not for a relationship with G-d. We don't feel the urgent need to be real. At moments of bliss people often feel that they are on top of the world and they do not need anybody. They forget their humaneness and simplicity.

On the other hand, when things become (heaven forbid) difficult and painful – your company “is in der erd” (Yiddish for “is in the ground”), a loss in the family, illness of a loved one, a marriage goes sour, the bank is after us, our children are not doing well or we are overcome by inner mental or physical challenges -- we often fall prey to feelings of despair and loneliness. We sink into the morass of life's hardships, as we say to ourselves, "it's dark and it's getting darker."

Maintain Perspective
Thus, the Torah this week teaches us a movingly profound lesson.

If you are to become a human Tabernacle, if you wish to discover the grace of G-d within your heart, you must recall the darker cloud hovering above you even during times of brightness and splendor. A person must always remember that ultimately he cannot claim ownership over anything in his life: Life is a gift, love is gift, parents are gifts and children are gifts. Financial success, too, is not a natural symptom of your brilliant investments; it is a gift. One ought never to become blind to the truth that everything can change in a single instance (5) and that there is so much pain in the world. When you remember the clouds, you will never become arrogant, detached and false.

On the other hand, when night falls upon us, when life exposes its painful and darker side to us, we need to recall the glowing light hovering above us. We must remember that every experience we endure is part of our life's mission to serve G-d under these circumstances and to transform the world into a home for goodness and G-dliness. Every challenge contains an opportunity for deeper growth and for a deeper relationship with our soul and our G-d. Each cloud contains a flame within.

Judaism's Mission Statement
This is the powerful significance behind the mitzvah, the Jewish tradition, to recite twice each day the Shema Yisroel, the most reverent Jewish prayer, once in the morning and once in the evening.

When dawn breaks and the sun emerges to embrace us with its warmth, we state: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One." Each of us is essentially a reflection of G-d, a recipient of His grace.

When night falls and darkness makes its way into our lives, we once again declare: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One." G-d is one means that the same G-d Who was present during the "day," is also present during the "night." Darkness is painful and bitter, but it, too, must become part of a dynamic relationship with life and with G-d (6).

The Breaking of the Glass
This is also the mystical reason for the enigmatic Jewish custom to break a glass under the wedding canopy (the Chupah) at the moment when the groom and the bride are about to enter into a private room and celebrate their union, and the guests are about to begin feasting and dancing.

Granted, we break a glass during a marriage ceremony to remember the destruction of Jerusalem and all of the broken hearts in the world. But couldn't we do the breaking a little earlier, during the more solemn moments of the ceremony? Must we, at the happiest moment of a bride and a groom, introduce sadness and melancholy?

The answer: Those who at the peak of their personal joy and remember the pain that is still present in the outside world, will, at the moment of their pain, remember the joy out there in the world. On the other hand, those who at a moment of a personal high, become totally submerged in their own mood and are indifferent to the broken hearts around them, then, when struck by pain and hardship, they will remain stuck in their own quagmire, unable to reach out and glean hope and inspiration from the laughter and joy still present in the world (7).

Thus, the Torah states: "From then on it remained that way, the cloud would cover it [by day] and a glow of fire by night." This is an eternal directive. During your days, look up to the clouds; during your nights, gaze up to the fire.

And if during your days, you will remember the clouds, then during your nights you will remember the flame (8).

To view the footnotes: click here


Fangyu said...

Good article. Thanks.

This is how the world works:

The answer is in the Torah(Genesis 2:10-14). From what I learned from Rabbi Dov Bar-Leib and other sources, I guess this is what happens: The first river has gold and the gold is good. This gold symbolizes Israel(Jerusalem of gold or practice of Mitzvahs), good means kosher. Israel is kosher and the spiritual center of the world(5772 years history to this day), Judaism demonstrates how to conduct righteous relationship with HaShem and between human beings. The first river also has crystal and the onyx stone. The stones symbolize China(about 5000 years history), the most populous country on earth and it also shows how to form unity and build solidarity among human beings.

The second, third and forth rivers represent the USA(236 years history so far), the wealthiest and the most technologically advanced country on Earth. It teaches the world how to make money and produce high technologies. Since creating wealth and high technologies are a necessity, but not holy, it is not mentioned what is actually in those three rivers, they are actually oil(with oil, you can make anything).

Although all four rivers have the same origin, the first river doesn't join the other rivers, that is why intermarriage with non-Jews and non-Chinese is not required and not needed. The USA has the least human involvement(e.g. vending machine, ATM machine, smartphone, online payment system....), the rest of the world(except Israel and China) is copy of USA and owned by the USA.

As you already notice, no one country can have it all(soul, heart and interest/resources), but Israel, China and USA are interdependent of each other, to bring the world into the Messianic age per the Talmud/Torah's words. Yes, there will be world war before the Messianic age(so to produce the permanent imprint in human history that peace and harmony is hard-earned). After that, there will still be nations and borders, but nations will be kinder, more truthful and selfless toward each others. The Messianic age will last one thousand years, this world model will be copied to another planet and the cycle of life continues into eternity.

The world's most important cities(even during the Messianic era):

1)Israel: Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv
2)China: Beijing, Shanghai, GuangZhou, Hongkong
3)USA: Los Angeles

The world's most important languages(even during the Messianic era):

1)Israel: Hebrew
2)China: Chinese(Mandarin, Cantonese)
3)USA: English

The world's governmental systems(even during the Messianic era):

1)Israel: Kingship monarchy
2)China: one party system
3)USA: two party system
4)The rest of the world(owned by the USA): multi-parties system


Leah said...

Very interesting and excellent article. Thank you.