Esav's tentacles

The tentacles of Esav’s superficial view of the world are found throughout Western society. It has seeped into our hearts and our minds to the point where we automatically question what our Torah says is truly the nature of reality. We identify more naturally with the words of the scientist then with the words of our Chazal. If Stephen Hawking or Brian Greene says it, well how does that work out with Beraishis?

This flaw is a product of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) who always works with the concept of egoism.

If I experience reality in a certain way, it must be that way! If I don’t see the spiritual side of the world, then the words of tradition are fanciful at best (חס ושלום).

This egocentric approach to life is absolutely evident in the approach of the scientist, who evaluates only what he sees, and disregards the wisdom of the ancients with a quick shrug. The experience of thousands of years and the wisdom culled through that time is worthless to the modern scientific mind that thinks it holds the ultimate vision of reality.

The foolishness of this prideful outlook was once brought home to me quite starkly.

Ninth grade biology taught us of ‘vestigial’ structures. These are the supposed byproducts of a body produced by evolution. They serve no function in our bodies, and thus must be a throwback to a previous stage where they did perhaps serve some purpose. The quintessential example of this is the appendix, appropriately named for it is ‘appended’ as it were and is pointless.

I remember an assignment where we had to think of five vestigial structures, similar to the appendix. I remember having difficulty with this. Maybe a pinky toe, or my belly button?

The ridiculousness of it was that basically what they wanted was an exercise in pride. Hmmmm, let’s think of something that I have no idea what it does in the body. Since I don’t know what it does, it must be pointless. Eureka! Vestigial structure!

This story was brought to a close years later as I sat in a doctor’s waiting room next to my pregnant wife, and picked up some scientific magazine. Towards the front was a column reserved for new information that was coming out of scientific research. The column was about the appendix. Apparently (if I recall correctly) some scientist had found that it has a significant function in children’s digestion. That function fades as the child matures and grows to adulthood. Seems appropriate for a name change on that organ.

The Western world would have us believe that we are here for no purpose. Well, I can’t quickly discern that purpose, so it must not be there. Doesn’t really make too much sense to me.

But we do that all that time.

I don’t understand why I should tie my right shoe first and then the left.

I’ve never seen an angel, it must not exist.

Ruach Hakodesh? Come on now, this is the twenty first century!

We may not understand the deeper parts of reality, what is going on in the spiritual world, and what the deeper purpose of the mitzvos are. Does our pride lead us to therefore assume it is indeed pointless, or that these levels of reality don’t exist?

The more we invest ourselves in humility, the larger the world becomes.

The more we invest in our pride, the smaller the world becomes.

We can choose a vast reality – the reality of Hashem’s world.

Leave a Comment