Seeing is Believing
Short Essays written on a variety of different Jewish concepts.
[Exodus 30:11 – 34:35]
16th March 2017 | 18th Adar, 5777
My favourite Jewish Philosopher, Rabbi Joseph Albo, points out something fascinating on this week’s portion.
Moses is on Mt Sinai in communion with God when God tells him the Jewish People have built a Golden Calf. Moses takes the news very calmly and argues vigorously with God that he should forgive them. And God duly does so. Lucky for me.
Moses then comes down the mountain, with the Ten Commandments in hand, and is confronted with the scene of the Jewish People dancing and worshipping the Calf and he blows a fuse. He is simply furious, such that he smashes the two Tablets, as if to say a nation doing that…. is not worthy of this. Albo points out that it is strange, however. Moses already knew what he was going to see. He had been told in advance. And when he was told he was calm. So now that he comes down, why is he suddenly angry? Albo answers that there is a very big difference between something we know to be true intellectually – and something that we see with our own eyes.
Invariably, at a funeral, you will notice that the mourners start crying when the body is lowered into the grave. Why? Because now they know the person is never coming home again. But they have known that for the past twenty four hours or more? Yes, they have known it, but now they KNOW it.
On the flip side, I know that I love my wife all the time. But when I see her, there is something more tangible about the feeling than when it is just a theory in my own thinking.
In short, there is a knowledge that is intellectual and a knowledge that is deeply felt. Intellectual knowledge does not move me all that much and certainly does not change me in any way. As such, it’s of little value. But knowledge that is felt and experienced in real time – that’s true knowledge – and each bit of it is a game changer.
I recall learning to scuba dive a few years ago. I spent hours in the classroom and got all the theory very clear. It made sense and I knew exactly what to do when I got into the water. Until I got into the water, that is! Suddenly, it all meant nothing to me. And I pretty much had to start all over again. A few dives later and I was starting to KNOW about scuba diving. Just starting, mind.
When my son came to me for classes on marriage right before he got married, I shared a few ideas with him. But I said that we need to have a conversation in a couple of years, not now. Now it will only be theory – and it won’t mean anything to you. A couple of years into marriage, when you see what it’s all about, you will be ready to hear something that might just resonate on a deeper level. The time has arrived for me to do that with my son and I look forward to the conversation when he is home in a few weeks.
The bottom line is, don’t be fooled by theoretical ideas and wisdom. It’s an illusory version of something that is very real. Look for wisdom that is felt and deeply understood. That’s the wisdom that touches us and guides us towards becoming more Godly human beings.