Photo Credit: JewishPress.com
By Yonatan Gordon
In this part of the series, we’re going to talk about the planet in our solar system that we probably know the least about. While we’ve pretty much mapped out the topography–the hills, valleys and so forth–we’re still trying to figure out what kind of life forms reside there. What planet are we speaking about? Well, we’re sitting in it right now.
Referencing back to our article on Earth Sciences from Rabbi Ginsburgh, in the model provided, Earth corresponds to the sefirah of “Loving-Kindness” (חסד / chesed). As we mentioned in Part 1, this sefirah also relates to the search for habitable colonies.
How then can we “boldly go to” Earth, if we’re already here? The answer is that while we understand fairly well the physical makeup of this planet, it’s the social components that still need some work.
That’s why most every utopian or dystopian science fiction story, starts off with how those people on Earth got it right or wrong. Whether they learned to work together in peace and harmony, or the opposite. While most science fiction films today depict the “opposite,” there is still a positive lesson to be gained from all these seemingly dystopian stories. The movie being released this Friday, August 9th, is no exception.
Luxury Space Habitat
While we won’t be mentioning the actual name of the film (as it dates back to a Greek mythology), the plot does provide some good examples to further our discussion. For one, although the movie was set in 2154, everyone from the director, down to the media outlets covering it, state clearly that the plot themes are not some far off fiction. They are relevant to us in the present day.
The film takes place on both a ravaged Earth and a luxurious space habitat. It explores political and sociological themes such as immigration, health care and class issues. When asked whether the film reveals how he sees Earth turning out in 140 years, the director responded “No, no, no. This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.”
The obvious question is why this utopian setting–where all residents have access to private medical machines that offer instant cures–is something that can’t be brought to the masses? Why should the protagonist of this story, have to fight so hard to get into this space habitat? Wouldn’t it be much better, if the people living up there, could figure out a way to bring their medical cures, and standard of living, back down to the world they previously left?
Without diverging into a discussion about health-care reform, trickle-down economics, immigration laws, and so on, how would we sum up the movie?
That if the people at the top, really cared about the people down below, they would find a way to help them.
This is what the sefirah of Loving-Kindness is all about.
Transforming Darkness into Light
We mentioned in Part 1, that the sefirah of Loving-Kindness relates to the social sciences (e.g. anthropology, sociology, etc…). But what we are now most interested in, is taking our dream, and bringing it down to Earth. To do away with the dystopia or darkness below, by transforming Earth into a light-filled, habitable place to live.
After the sin of the golden calf–one of the lowest points in Jewish history–Moses pleaded to God for forgiveness. When God acceded to his request, Moses, feeling the auspiciousness of the moment, further requested of God to show him His glory. God acquiesced to this appeal as well, but informs him:
“You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live. God said: Behold, there is a place with Me; you may stand on the rock; I will shield you with My hand until I have passed. Then I will remove My hand and you will see my back, but My face may not be seen.”
Though Moses longed to see and know God’s ways directly, he was told that he would only be able to see His “back.” This sense of indirect sight is represented by the word “vision.” In Aramaic, a language considered the reverse side of Hebrew, the word for “sight” (ra’oh) is translated as “vision” (chazah). Until we actually experience the redemption, we can only “see” indirectly in the deeply hidden consciousness of our heart and soul.
Bringing Down the Vision
The book of Isaiah opens with the words: “The ‘vision,’ (chazon), of Isaiah….” This portion is the prophetic reading, the haftorah, for the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av, Shabbat Chazon (lit. “Sabbath of Vision”). While Tisha B’Av is the
day in the Hebrew calendar when both Temples were destroyed (as well as many other events throughout Jewish history), the Shabbat before is filled with hope and the promise of redemption.
The well known 18th-century Chassidic Rebbe, Levi Yitzchack of Berditchev, taught that on Shabbat Chazon, each Jew (at some level of consciousness) becomes aware of the future redemption, and the rebuilding of the third Temple. This reflects the general principle taught by the sages that God always “prepares the healing before the sickness.”
Reading the vision of Isaiah before Tisha B’Av gives us the clarity and perspective to deal with the exile and destruction relived each year on those sad days.
Living the Future Vision Today
What good does it do to show us a utopia in the sky, only to pull it away from us? This is the question of the movie. But as we said above, it is much more profound to try and bring this “sky-based” vision down to Earth, than it is for some select people to “gain entry” up above. We are shown the third Temple on Shabbat Chazon because we are in need of that inspiration. Instead of focusing solely on destruction upon destruction (the First Temple, Second Temple, etc…), we are shown the vision in order to help us see the potential within the present world.
To be sure, this vision in the sky, is indeed a place of healing. But unlike the movie, we don’t actually need to travel up there in order to be healed. As God always “prepares the healing before the sickness,” the main thing is to be inspired by the awareness that this vision will soon come down. But until it does, knowing that it will soon, provides us with the comfort and solace we need during these trying time.
If ever there was an apocalyptic moment in Jewish history, it was when both Temples were destroyed. But now is a time for rebuilding this world anew. To turn all these dystopian science fiction films, into light-filled visions for the here and now.
Excerpted and freely adapted from material on Inner.org