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Jewish World Review
Dec. 3, 2004
/ 20 Kislev, 5765
Can You Surpass Yourself?
Rabbi David Aaron
Not only can you transcend nature, you must transcend nature
The Torah (Bible) relates how the Pharaoh had a dream about seven lean cows and seven fat cows, followed by a dream about seven lean stalks of wheat and then seven fat stalks of wheat. He woke up in a panic, and turned to his dream interpreters to help him decipher the meaning of his dreams, but none of them could. Their answers were not satisfying to him; they seemed false and contrived, not at all in accordance with Pharaoh's own intuition.
Fortunately, one of the people working for Pharaoh suddenly remembered a man named Joseph, a Jewish dream interpreter who was in prison at the time. Pharaoh ordered Joseph to be brought into the palace and related the dreams to him. When the Pharaoh had finished, Joseph said, "These dreams are about economics. These dreams are about agriculture. They are telling you that there will be seven good years of plenty followed by seven bad years of drought and famine." The Pharaoh immediately knew Joseph was right.
After he had finished explaining the dream, Joseph, in a bold display of chutzpa, laid out a brilliant economic plan to save Egypt from the impending famine.
This whole story may seem a bit bizarre. How could the finest dream interpreters of Egypt, who were living in an agricultural society, miss the most obvious interpretation about dreams dealing with wheat and cows? What was it about Joseph that enabled him to see so clearly the message of Pharaoh's dreams?
Only a Jewish boy could offer such an interpretation because he was the only one in Egypt who did not think like an idolater. In Egypt the Nile was a G-d because it was the source of their agricultural wealth. The Nile had a very consistent natural pattern of overflowing its banks and irrigating the area, and therefore it was a G-d. Nobody among the Egyptians could offer an interpretation like Joseph offered, because such an interpretation is the very antithesis of idolatry. It would be heretical.
For those who deify nature, you can't say that nature is going to suddenly stop. The Nile had been flowing along its natural course, in a regular pattern for thousands of years and the Egyptians couldn't imagine that could ever change. But Joseph knew that G-d is not nature. His interpretation was a direct message to the Egyptians from the one and only G-d, that nature isn't necessarily consistent, nor is it reliable. Nature must answer to a higher power its Creator because only He can stop and start at will the natural processes of the world.
Idolatry is the antithesis of Judaism. While people tend to associate idolatry with bowing down to rocks and trees, that is only part of the equation, and not the essence of idolatry. The deification of nature is the justification of man's animalistic drives, the perfect excuse to do whatever comes "naturally" to us.
The ultimate moral implications of idolatry were demonstrated to us by Nazi Germany. Hitler was a pagan, who boldly stated:
Yes, we are barbarians! We want to be barbarians! It is an honorable title Ö Providence has ordained that I should be the greatest liberator of humanity. I am freeing men from Ö the dirty and degrading self-mortifications of a false vision (a Jewish invention) called "conscience" and "morality." 1
The Jewish message to the world is that you can surpass yourself. Human beings are not animals. They are not victims to their wild instincts. Nature doesn't rule, and therefore, not only can you transcend nature, you must transcend nature. You have free will; you were created in the image of G-d. You mirror the ultimate reality G-d Who is beyond nature, and therefore you too can transcend nature.
1 See Hermann Rauschning's books: Hitler Speaks and Voice of Destruction
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Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.
He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G-d, and also the author of Endless Light, Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on link to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.
© 2004, Rabbi David Aaron