The following is adapted largely based on the words of Rabbi Moshe Grylak in Mishpacha magazine, Rabbi Aaron Cohen of Kol Yeshurun in Passaic, NJ, and others.

Setting up the Problem

esther2The connections between Purim and the Holocaust are clear.  At two separate times in history, a dictator basing himself on a breed of rationalism that saw survival of the fittest as paramount, sought to destroy the Jews, as the Jews represented the subservience of man to a Creator.  Neither was a pogram of a village here or a village there, but mass annihilation.  The connections are clear even from the point of view of the Nazis who clearly understood what Purim was.  Take, for example, Julius Streicher, one of 10 Nazis hung, who screamed “PurimFest 1946” just before his death.  Even further, this corresponded to 5,707th year of the Jewish calendar.  In Megillah Esther when the 10 sons are hanged, three letters are written small, since the days of Persia and Media when the Megillah was written – Taf, Shin, and Zayin, corresponding to 5707.

So the connection is clear and even predicted in the Megillah, which forms part of the Written Torah, itself.  The setup is the same, and the end is the same – the Jews left the service of the Creator and that of the Torah in large numbers.  Sure, in Persia, many ate their kosher food at the banquet of the king, but Mordechai told them not to go, and there, on what they thought was the anniversary of the date they should have been redeemed, they saw the holy items from the Temple on display, captured by the Persians who ate, drank, and saw the prophecy of the Jews as being unfulfilled.  The Jews were willing participants in this.  I’ll refrain from listing the details of the Jews and the Haskala, where Jews also went away from Torah to follow the dictates of the nations around us in large numbers, but suffice to say, both actions are reprehensible for a Jew who has a Torah to follow.

In the end, 10 of the evil men get destroyed, and the Jews live to serve our Creator, another day.  But the story between the decree of annihilation and triumph is quite different.  In Persia and Media, the enemy died.  In Nazi Europe, 6 million Jews died.  What made the difference?

How did Mordechai Act?

The Megillah tells us a few things: Mordechai was an advisor to the king.  Two other advisors, he heard, were plotting to kill the king.  He told the king, who promptly had the traitors executed.  (See Esther 2:23).  Jews, throughout history have often been advisors and doctors to kings.  Mordechai’s actions make sense – imagine the Ramban, an advisor to King James I of Aragon hearing of a plot to murder the king.  Surely, as a dutiful servant to the king he would make sure it did not happen.  In this case, Mordechai told the king through Esther, who had it taken care of – done.

But then Mordechai acts very differently around Haman, the “Hitler” of the story.  He refuses to bow to him, refuses to avoid his path so as not to cause a problem in the first place, and refuses to yield whatsoever.  Haman was a man who had the power to have gallows built and hang who he wished!  (See Esther 6)  Why tempt this?

As we know, Haman does plot to kill the Jews, based, it appears, solely on Mordechai’s actions!  (Esther 3:6)  Then, once the decree is made, Mordechai doesn’t contact Esther to beseech the king, as he did when the king’s life was in danger.  No – he gets in sackcloth and ashes, and has the majority of the Jewish people do the same.  They start praying to the Creator, and Esther has to contact him to find out what’s going on!  Why didn’t Mordechai use the regular channels, this time?

You’ve got a queen in power, who we later find out, could get half the kingdom (it’s probably just a phrase of flattery, but surely there’s something behind this), and you don’t use her!  Even more so, after Esther contacts Mordechai, Mordechai doesn’t say, “We’re in lots of trouble! Go the king right now and see what you can do!”  He says, “For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place . . . who knows whether you are in the royal estate for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)  Wait, what?  You’ve got a king who trusted your words about a prior plot . . . you saved his life . . . and you’re not screaming, “do it, do it” you’re saying, “who knows?”  Uh?  Try it!  No – this will have to wait, from Chapter 4 until Chapter 7.  (There are only 10 Chapters, total!)

What is going on?  Mordechai provokes the Hitler of his times, and then is luke warm about the resources he has available?

Bitachon – Trust that the Creator Runs the World

Here’s a slight diversion, which is really no diversion at all, to Nazi Germany.  By the end of 1939, Germany had taken over all of Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.  By the end of 1940, they had taken over Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.  (Source.)  What were notable exceptions?  Grodno – June 1941.  Vilna – June, 1941.  Barnovitch – June, 1941.  In fact, these were cities where Jews from other areas fled to for safety, until they too were taken over.  It is said that R’ Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, who preserved and brought other yeshivas to Vilna protected the “free state of Vilna” which was otherwise surrounded by Nazi territory, until his death – August 1940.  Similarly, R’ Shimon Shkop lived in the free city of Grodno until his death – October 22, 1939.  So too, R’ Baruch Ber Leibowitz, who died on November 17, 1939 never saw Nazi occupation of Barnovitch (though he fled to Vilna, where it was safer, thanks to the presence of R’ Grodzinski).

Even further, it is said that the Chazon Ish, who moved to Israel in 1933, was exceedingly upset when he found out after the war that his family hid the Holocaust from him.  He allegedly cried out something like, “Had I known, I would not have let it happen!”  Wow.  A tzaddik has the power, not only to save his own city, but to save everyone?  Could it be?

What, Exactly, Did Esther Do?

Here’s where it gets even crazier.  “Normally” when people tell the Purim story, they include how Esther went to the king who heard her request, and because he loved her, or something of this sort, he took his wrath out on Haman instead.  If this is how the king felt, why couldn’t she go to him right away, in Chapter 3?  Rather, consider the order in which the following selected Esther-related events unfold:

– Decree to kill the Jews (Chapter 3)

– Haman has king build gallows to hang Mordechai (Chapter 5)

– King can’t sleep; King read to about Mordechai having saved the king (Chapter 6)

– Haman forced to honor Mordechai by the king (Chapter 6)

Only now, Esther tells the king that Haman is evil (Chapter 7)

– King leaves room to consider and returns seeing (out of context?) that Haman is on Esther (Chapter 7)

So, it seems, after waiting a very good part of the entire story (from chapter 3 to 7 . . . of 10!) that Esther really didn’t do all that much.  Why is it called Megillas Esther, anyway?  It’s kind of like calling it “Alice’s Restaurant” in a 20-something minute song about a Vietnam War protest.  Everything “happened” well before Esther even approached the king, which she had to do out of the need to interact with the world, but this is after the Jewish people fasted for three days, after Mordechai wore sackcloth and ashes in public along with the Jews, and after Mordechai provoked Haman.

Putting it All Together

It seems, Mordechai, who was the leader of his generation, much as the Chazon Ish was of this past generation, knew what he was doing.  Never was he fazed that the Jews would be annihilated.  He had total trust that everyone would be saved, even if he did not know how, and even if it looked really, really bad in the middle.  Remember, he says “For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place” (4:14) and even provoked Haman before this, perhaps to arouse the Jewish people to do teshuvah (return to service of the Creator).  It worked.  After all the prayer and connection to the Creator through chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7, the king, not Ahasverus, but the Creator and real king, was appeased.  The human king was a puppet in his hands who melted alongside events unfolding around him, changing his direction from that of Haman to the Jews.  Talking to the human king was a necessary step to the work that needed to be done, but would only be effective when the real King was appeased.

The last verse of the Megillah tells us, “For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed.” (10:3).

So why didn’t it work in the time of the Holocaust?  Simply because the greatest of the generation, after R’Grodinski died, wasn’t informed?  Because the provoking of those who hate us wasn’t for the right reasons?  Because no one had the proper bitachon, trust in the Creator?  Because it will too little too late and too many Jews couldn’t be reached?  I can’t say to know, and discussing these topics is still quite political, so I will leave it at this, but it is something to consider.  Since we trust and know as Jews that everything comes from above and is directed as such, as is the whole point of Purim, then we also know that the Holocaust is no different.  We don’t have a megillah to put it together, but there are countless stories of proper bitachon saving the individual with one story seemingly more unrealistic than the next.  Perhaps we can go do far as to say that the proper bitachon of one person, effecting the multitudes, could save everyone.

Do we trust to this extent?  Then it is so.  If we do not, then it is not so.

Guest Post, by Boruch Katina of Passaic, NJ

 

When contemplating the size of the universe and how small we are, I was wondering “who are we that G-d should pay any attention to us? Do we make a difference?” So, I made the following calculation, if you multiply the 500 billion galaxies (estimates are 100 to 500 billion) by average 100 billion stars in each galaxy, you get 5*10 to the 22 power. But if you get the about 100 trillion cells in a human body and multiply by 7 billion world inhabitants, you get 7*10 to the 23 power, or 14 times more than the number of stars in the observable universe (as far as our telescopes can reach). Now, this calculation is only including humans, but there are zillions upon zillions more of different animal species, vegetation, micro-organisms and bacteria everywhere, an “unlimited” number of them.One can wonder, however, that a star is big and a cell is small, so aren’t galaxies more complex than the human body?

Left, Brain Cell.  Right, Universe.

Left, Brain Cell. Right, Universe.

From a cellular perspective – A star is a non-living entity, while each cell is live and is extremely complex, with a DNA that contains the blueprint of the whole body (it can potentially recreate the whole body). While the stars and planets are “dead”, the cells are composed of 23 trillion molecules that coordinate among themselves and operate to maintain life within the cell. Cells go through complex duplication phases, DNA encryption, and just the daily maintenance and coordination between cells and organs is a world in itself, a level of complexity that is not found in the dead planets or solar systems. The DNA in each cell commands exactly how much each cell should grow/multiply and tells all the veins and capillaries (60,000 miles if attached end to end) to supply 100 trillion cells with the blood supply. The cells and veins/capillaries grow exactly from the blood artery to the location where it needs to be, and stop growing right there. If the capillaries were to continue growing beyond their target, or if the cells themselves were to continue growing non-stop, the body would not be able to function. This is actually very similar to what happened once in the universe in the early stages of creation – G-d’s name Sh-d-ai symbolizes the one who told the universe to stop expanding. From a cellular perspective, the body needs the same command, to just grow to the specific sizes and positions and stop! But the body has to do this continuously, as our body parts are constantly being replaced. This also leads to the next difference, that while the stars and planets exist for millions of years, our body is constantly replacing its cells, with 2 trillion cell divisions/replacements occurring every 24 hours. So, from our intricate cellular perspective, it seems that our 100 trillion cell body is a lot more complex and therefore, needs more attention from G-d than the stars.

From a mind perspective – As opposed to the stars and galaxies that continue on their predictable paths and therefore require little supervision from G-d (relatively speaking), due to our ability to engage in free-will, G-d judges us every moment for every thought we have and for every move we make. It’s not just the thought but the quality, feelings and intentions behind it. And G-d is judging the whole world, every person on the planet at the same time. Additionally, because of this free will, our future and the future of our counterparts is constantly changing based on our decisions. When we make a decision to be good or bad, G-d has to plan our life and relationships accordingly, whether we are going to be making more or less money, be more or less healthy, if we are going to meet certain people or not, and how is that going to affect our family members and friends, and even those whom we don’t know yet. These dynamics are constantly being played by all 7 billion people in the planet at the same time. Our free-will changes our life paths and requires G-d to provide constant intimate supervision, a supervision that is not needed for the dead planets aside from letting them keep doing the same thing.

So when wondering about our small size versus the universe, we should not be intimidated by our size but understand that just like the DNA is the most complex entity in our planet, despite its small size, so are we humans, the most complex entity in the universe despite our small size.

As such, I conclude that despite our small size, it seems that our life in this planet seems to be more complex that what goes on in our observable universe. So, when wondering why did G-d make the universe so big, perhaps we can say that one reason is to show His abilities. Because that in order to show (at least in one way) that He is capable of creating this complexity on earth, it’s imperative that such a G-d be able to create something as vast as the whole universe. The whole universe (which is based on dimension within dimension (quarks, atoms, molecules, cells, organism, human, planet, solar system, galaxies)) is to show that indeed, He can read and judge every person’s thoughts, coordinate every action and every cell. Now, if the universe were to really reflect the complexity that goes here on earth, then perhaps it should have been much bigger. Actually, some scientists claim the real universe to be much bigger than what we can see, as big as if our whole universe were just an atom inside the real universe.

So when wondering “What is a man that G-d should pay attention to”, if a man is just mundane, not thinking about G-d, then right, perhaps G-d is not that interested in that kind of man and eventually all his actions and thoughts will be forgotten, just like a little speck of dust in the vast universe. But for a man who is constantly thinking about G-d, who is constantly thinking about doing mitsvos and subjugating his heart to G-d, then G-d has a high interest into that person. The complexity of all the thoughts about that person, how much reward he deserves for each thought, is something extremely complex and of high interest to G-d, who wants to give us so much reward. Then, perhaps man can be as much or even more involving and complex than a whole galaxy, and deserve more attention from G-d.

So, when coming to pray, don’t think about the G-d of the whole universe, who may be far from us. No. G-d’s attention is right here by every single one of us, counting every thought we have, measuring our character traits (generosity, devotion, piety, calmness, etc), busy with the most complex and entertaining entity in the universe – the human mind, heart and life.

The role of the Rebbe

rebbeThis is one of those anecdotal stories which intersects between Judaism and Patents.  Torah observant Jews believe that there was one and only mass revelation where the creator spoke to every one of the Jewish people.  At Mt. Sinai, we received direction from the creator on how to live, so we generally revere our elders who we view as one step closer to the chain of transmission from Mt. Sinai, and seek their advice.  Chassidim take this especially seriously, each group having a Rebbe that devotes his days and nights solely to Torah study, whom they not only ask questions of religious significance (which, may very well incorporate everything in your life), but also business questions.

Where my Clients Could Use a Rebbe

Oftentimes, I get clients who come in for consultations for the silliest ideas, or for things which have been out there in some form for years and years.  People tend to see their ideas as great and wonderful, and often have lines line, “there’s nothing else out there like it!” and “I know I could become rich if I market this idea!”  I tend to try and convince them otherwise and bring them down to earth as to just how much work is involved in bringing the best of ideas to market.

More often than not, if we’ve gotten this far, they’ll at least want to proceed with obtaining a formal patentability opinion, regardless of what I say.  In most cases, once I issue a patentability opinion, it ends there, but once I even had a man who came in for a consultation that I told point blank, “it would be extremly difficult to get a patent on this, I don’t recommend you go forward.”  He shook my hand and said, “I want to hire you.  Every other patent attorney I called told me it was a great idea and wanted my money, but I know you’re honest.”  He hired me, and as it turned out, I was wrong – we got a patent on his concept fairly easily. 🙂

The Woman Who Asked Her Rebbe

A Chassidish lady once asked came in for a consultation, and had a simple idea which was more-or-less done a long time ago, even though not actively on the market.  She ended up being one of those who paid me to do some searching, but a few days a later she called me and told me she spoke to her Rebbe.  It seems her Rebbe told her not to go forward!  He said it wasn’t a good idea.  She listened to him, and that’s the last I’ve heard from her.

If only everyone had a Rebbe – not necessarily a man who attempts to follow in the way of the Baal Shem Tov, but someone who is wise and honest and who will be able to guide you life in a way suited for you and based on what is good and right to do.  In Torah learning, we often learn with a “chavrusa”, in pairs, to bounce our ideas of another to ensure that the way we’re understanding something makes sense and to speak it out.  Through the back and forth give and take, we arrive, hopefully, at the truth, or at least, are much more likely to find what makes sense versus just following ideas in our own mind, which can lead us in any direction.  Put another way, it’s much easier to see the flaws in another, than it is in yourself.  By bouncing everything off someone else you trust in an area, or if you’re a Chassid with a Rebbe, in all areas, you’re in a much better position to make good choices, even if sometimes you disagree with the choice.

Always listen to your Rebbe.

It is often hard to get caught up in the physicality that surrounds us.  People tend to think that their hard work will make them rich.  But it is not so.  My salesman example illustrates this quite well, and while we have to put in the effort, the amount of effort we put in depends on our relationship and trust in a creator who provides for us at every moment, having no reason to give to us, other than to create us to have choice.  Without man, there is no choice – their is autonomy.  We can choose to become close to the creator, which we are separated from, and a part of, at the same time, or we can choose the opposite.

So why are some rich and some poor?

“[King Dovid said] make the world even, so that all are equally rich or poor. . . . He [G_d] said to him . . . If everyone were rich or poor, who would do acts of giving?” – Midrash Tanchuma, Parsha Mishpatim referring to Tehillim 61:8.

The answer is quite simple.  There will always be poor people.  Without poor people, there could be no one to give to.  Where would the hero’s be?  Iyov [Job] chapter 40 and 41 further explain: if we are to complain that there is “evil” in the world, as Iyov did, well, where would you start destroying?  If we had the power of G_d, would we do away with evil by leaving nothing but weak creatures like worms that don’t hurt anything?  What sort of creation to rule over is that?  Where is the glory?

 

But don’t the rich have it easier?  Is that fair?

“The Holy One, Blessed Is He, tests everyone. The wealthy, if they are giving to the poor, they will enjoy their possessions [in this world]. And as for the charity they do, the principal remains in the World to Come.” – Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Mishpatim

Think only the poor or tested by having to find food to live for the next day?  On the contrary, everyone is tested.  Life is a test.  How will we do?  The poor are tested with thanking G_d and doing mitzvos even though they are lacking in physical needs (sometimes) and must cry out to G_d to get what is needed.  The rich are tested with their wealth.  Will a rich person be like a snake who has every physical desire met, and never needs to look up to G_d and see G_d, or will a rich person recognize that it all comes from the creator, and just as the creator gives to him, he must give to others.  If he does, he’ll be assured of a reward.  It all works out, not only in this world, but the next.

 

So how do I become rich and keep it that way?

“One may not test G_d [by demanding a reward for a mitzvah], other than in the matter of tzedakah. . . . give a tenth [of your income to tzedakah] so that you will become wealthy” – Talmud Bavli, Mesechta Taanis 9a

“Bring all of the tithes to the storage house, and test Me, please, with this: See if I do not open up the windows of the heavens and pour out upon you endless blessings!” – Malachi 3:10

Although it is normally prohibited to test G_d, the Tur (Yoreh Deah 247) says it is permitted to test G_d to see if Hashem will reward him for it.  It’s just that simple.

I have often run across people who complain about money.  It happens in work all the time.  If they’re a religious person and I think they might hear me, I ask them, “Do you give enough tzedekah?”  Not once have a run into a person complaining about money who gives enough tzedekah.  Some will say, “My rabbi says really it doesn’t apply today . . . I don’t have to give 10% . . .” or “Yeah, I guess, but I really need the money I have” or some other variant.  Of the about 12 or so people I have quoted Malacha 3:10 to, none have actually taken me up on it and decided they’d start giving away 10% or more of their money to tzedekah.  It’s true, there are those who say all sorts of things about whether one must, should, or could choose to give this money tzedekah, but those who say anything other than “go and do it” are selling others short.  Go and do it!

We can find a logical proof of G_d’s existence

The only catch is that this proof of G_d’s existence only works if you’re willing to take the steps towards a relationship with your creator:

If you will give $100,000 to charity, I promise you will be a millionaire. And what if you tell me you don’t have $100,000 to give? So I’ll tell you to go out and get other people to give, too!” – Bernard Hochstein, multi-millionare donor.

Bernard Hochstein has his name on a lot of yeshivas.  There’s a great write-up of him over here: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48939877.html .  Looking for a place to see G_d’s hand in your every day activities – here it is.  If you’re the first one who heard this from me that actually follows up by making a consistent and concerted effort to give your money to tzedekah, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

This post is a continuation of Considering the Existence of a Creator: Part I – Gerbils.

Who Collapsed the Wave Function?

513EyN1A6GL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_As noted in the prior post, in my most secular days, I would never say there wasn’t a creator, simply because I believed, and still believe, you can’t prove the lack of something.  If anything, you can only prove that there is a creator.  Then, like any nerdy kid into physics (I still regret not being a physics major), I read “Schrodinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality” by John Gribbin.  It’s a book about understanding the seeming paradox’s in quantum physics.  Now, I’m going to try and summarize my point here, with the caveat that while I aced engineering level physics in college, whenever I talk to an electrical engineers about this, they tell me I have it all wrong.  (Maybe it’s just that I’m talking to the wrong electrical engineers.)

Anyway, the point from the book that I took out of it was that matter is really a bunch of wave forms.  It takes an observer to collapse the wave form into a reality.  No observer means there is no reality – just a bunch of probability waves.  An example is the paradox of a photon of light – it acts as a wave, but as soon as we observe it, it acts like a particle.  How can it propagate through two slits, but then if we observe it, it only hits as if it went through one slit?  John Gribbin doesn’t say “G_d” is observing us, but then, if you have a big bang and no one there to observe it . . . how, according to what we can observe of quantum physics, can the universe every collapse into anything?  Where is the first observer?  This, at 17 years old was the first time I seriously considered the possibility that there was a G_d.

So there you have it – maybe there was evidence of a creator.  But does this creator care what we do?

Selling 10x As Much As Your Brother

In my summer between high school and college I landed a temporary job at an alarm system company.  There were two brothers, I’ll call them “Moe” and “Larry”, who started together and were partners in the business of selling and installing home, boat, car, office, and whatever other kids of alarm systems they could sell.  What was supposed to be more of a clerical position turned into reorganizing and computerizing their sales and customer data.  (Many of my temp jobs turned out this way, actually.  I hated the boring stuff and say I could do it better with a little Microsoft Access programming or some nice spreadsheets.  Okay, so I’m a bit unique.)

postiiveimagingWhile on the job, I saw all of their sales data and the amount of work each put in.  Moe, the older brother, was in the office bright and early every day and worked from hard the whole day.  Larry, the younger brother, tended to show up whenever and had a lot of extracurricular’s, like golf.  Yet, when I created the nice bar graphs of their sales data, it was clear that Larry’s sales data was consistently about ten times higher than Moe’s.  What gives?

Near the end of the summer, Larry, who, honestly, I didn’t know that well because he wasn’t in the office all that much, gave me a book, “Positive Imaging” by Norman Vincent Peele.  Larry told me that this was the secret to his success in business and he wanted to share it with me while I went off to college.  I was hesitant to read it because Mr. Peele, or I should say, Minister Peele, had quotes throughout from the Christian Bible, but Larry told me just to skip those, and since Larry was Jewish, I knew he wasn’t trying to missionize me.  Since Larry was so successful in business, I thought it was worth a shot.

The basic premise of the “Positive Imaging” is that if you continue to place an image in your mind, and don’t let it go, it will happen.  You can work towards your goal in life and get there.  Sometimes there are roadblocks, but you keep your goal in mind and you’ll align yourself that way . . . and . . . he adds that G_d will direct it that way.  The caveat, however, is that you could be directing yourself in a bad direction and come to do bad things this way, so you need to “test your idea through G_d” to make sure it’s right.

I tried it.  First, I tried it with small things, like falling asleep quicker.  Then I tried it towards having a girlfriend and meeting physical desires.  Then, I tried it with larger things, like doing well that semester.  Then, I tried it towards guiding me towards the profession I wanted.  (Then one day I realized I didn’t want it, but that’s a different story.)  Today, I still do it – I wanted to be on my own in the practice of patent law, and I got there. I can thank losing a job at the right time to that.  Beyond my control, but exactly what I needed.

At first, I looked at this as any skeptic would – okay, this is just a game of focus.  This can be explained through natural means.  You can say that this was coincidence, or that was coincidence . . . but when you find you have power through, what really is a form of prayer – that is, requesting it from the only with that power, you can be directed that way.  Then, we you start thinking along the lines of, “hey, I got what I wanted, but this is lacking in meaning” you start to add the “testing it through G_d” thing that Peele was talking about, and making sure you’re doing the right thing.  When you look back at your “moral” versus “amoral” actions, and “passing it through G_d” before you do something, you find meaning and purpose in your actions. That puts you dangerously close to crossing that scary line between, “maybe there’s a creator” and “there’s a creator who is involved in the world!”

Where It All Broke Down For Me

The problem was, after I got everything I wanted in college (not necessarily passing it “through G_d”), I was miserable.  I had straight A’s, including in Organic Chemistry, a job making more money than I needed in college, a girlfriend, and I was miserable.  True story.

This is where “kodesh” comes in.  That’s for another article, but the short version is that “kodesh”, usually translated as “holy”, really means, “to separate.”  As in, “to separate good from bad, the pure from impure” to quote Vayikra [The Book of Leviticus].  This is where meaning comes in – by categorizing and choosing, but the only way we know if we’re choosing correctly is to be guided by the “instruction manual” given to us by the Creator.  With the exception of perhaps certain innate truths (such as not to murder or steal), anything less than a connection to a source is really just a matter of a choice, based largely on what the world around you is telling you is correct.  This changes based on the whims of the populace (so it seems) and therefore, what you consider the right political cause of the day is more likely than not going to be seen as meaningless and backwards in 100 years anyway.

This leads me to . . .

Jewish View On Our Relationship with the Creator

When you look at the world differently, you see it differently.  The Jewish view of this, is basically that – the creator made us to have a relationship with us, but in a relationship, it takes two.  We do say that G_d helps man in the way he wants to go.  We see that in desert, the spies were told they could spy on the land of Israel because that’s what they wanted to do, and like a father will say to a child, “okay, I don’t think you should do this, but if you want to go try and learn the consequences yourself, you can go.”  So too, when Bilaam insists on cursing the Jews in the desert, it’s pretty obvious to the reader that he shouldn’t go – after all, his donkey refuses to go and an angel appears before him to tell him not to go.  However, in the midst of things, Bilaam doesn’t see that – he sees what he wants to do and so he is let continue on his path, albeit with instructions.  (This is all in Bamidbar [Numbers].)

The problem with the spies and with Bilaam is that they did not pass their actions through G_d – the internal moral compass that we have, unless we broke it already.  Certain things are innate within all human beings – we call them the 7 Noachide laws.  These are laws given to Noach [Noah] for all man kind, as written in Bereshis [Genesis]-

  1. Prohibition of Idolotry
  2. Prohibition of Murder
  3. Prohibition of Theft
  4. Prohibition of Sexual Immorality
  5. Prohibition of Blasphemy
  6. Prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive
  7. Establishment of courts of law

Further than that, the extent that you reach out and say, “G_d, I recognize that you are the creator and I wish to do your will” is the extent that G_d will reach out and make the will of G_d into your will:

“Do His will as if it were your own, so that He will do His will as it were yours. Nullify your own will before His so that he will nullify the will of others before you.” (Pirkei Avos 2:4)

Thus, to find meaning, purpose, and ultimately, something that lasts beyond the destruction of the physical world, or for that matter, for generations and generations, is to connect to ultimate truth.  One must realize that, yes, we are mortal man and the the physical world is heading towards eventual destruction no matter what we do.  Therefore, we can live in depression, or we can connect to something higher and find that there is a world beyond the physical and there is actually a creator who creates us and cares what we do.  We’ve given the chance to explore and figure that out because, while G_d could create robots that just praise G_d all day long (we call these “melachim” or “angels” who, have in fact been created and are spiritual beings unsubjegated by the decay of the physical world), that this isn’t a very deep relationship.  A deep relationship is one of choice –

“A person is led in the direction he wants to go.” – Talmud.

Everything in the world depends solely upon will. – Zohar, Terumah 162

Through this world, we can choose.  We can choose destruction or we can choose to have a relationship with the creator.  If we choose the later, we will see that back at is.  If we choose the former, we will see a pretty bleak world.