Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gentle winds of change

One of the 10 principles of TJM is connectivity--developing a sensitivity to see things as they really are, and not be fooled by the illusion of how they appear. The following parable illustrates this well:

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agree that they had no other recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.The first thing the first man prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man's parcel of land remained barren. After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing. Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing. Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that his wife and he could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God's blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered. As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from Heaven booming, "Why are you leaving your companion on the island?" "My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them," the first man answered. "His prayers were all unanswered, and so he does not deserve anything."
"You are mistaken!" the voice rebuked him. "He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings." "Tell me," the first man asked the voice, "what did he pray for that I should owe him anything?" "He prayed that all your prayers be answered."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swine flu is mentioned in the gemara

Our sages tell us that everything is hinted at in the Torah. An amazing example of this is a passage in the gemara (the oral Torah) which says as follows (Ta'anis 21b):

"The sages said to Rav Yehuda, 'There is a deadly plague among pigs.' He decreed a fast day (to arouse Divine mercy and cancel this heavenly decree). Do we say that Rav Yehuda holds that a plague that is sent to one species could be visited upon other species as well (and the reason he declared a fast day was that, even though Jews do not raise pigs and therefore would not suffer financial loss by their illness, still they may infect other kosher species and cause great financial loss?) No, answers the gemara, pigs are different, for their intestines are similar to human intestines" (and therefore, there is a great danger of human beings actually contracting this plague from pigs!). Rashi explain that pigs don't have extra stomach, unlike cows, and Tosfos further illucidates that people are therefore, more susceptable to plagues that affect pigs than those that affect other animals, similar to human plagues.