Heeding the Call

February 21, 2013 2:24 am 0 comments

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Photo: www.migdalworld.org.

Two hours.

That’s all it took for Alexander Graham Bell to be forever remembered as the inventor of the telephone. Two hours only, and a burning sense of urgency, that called upon Bell to fulfill his goal with conviction.

Alexander Bell might have well remained unknown. He may have never risen to history’s center stage. A contemporary of Bell, the American inventor Elisha Gray had, unbeknownst to Bell, simultaneously developed the telephone. In fact, they both registered their identical innovations at the U.S. Patent Office on Monday, February 14, 1876. Gray may have overslept on that fateful morning; he may have eaten an extra-long breakfast, or taken more time to read his daily paper. But Bell wasted no time. He was determined to act and beat Gray to the Patent Office by two hours. The rest, as we know, is history.

Pure Coincidence Or The Works Of A “Higher-Force”?

The chronicles of humankind are filled with similar events: Calculus was conceptualized in the 17th Century, by two separate scientists who had never met one another: Sir Isaac Newton from Great Britain and Gottfried W. Leibniz from Germany. At least nine unassociated innovators from several countries worldwide invented the telescopei. Chloroform was first produced in 1831 by three separate examiners in the United States, France and Germany. Sound film was invented by Joseph Tykociński-Tykociner of Poland in 1922 and by Lee De Forest of the United States in 1923, and they did not know of each other’s work. The vaccine for Polio was formulated in the 1950’s by three independent individuals, Hilary Koprowski, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. And most recently, the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt for independently discovering that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

We are left to wonder: how can logic explain the simultaneity of major discoveries? Is it simply a “coincidence” that some of our world’s most important innovations were produced concurrently by individuals who did not know each other? Can there be a “higher-force” that guides our fate?

The Inevitability of Life

Perhaps, this wondrous phenomenon sheds light on the inevitability of life’s many tides and fluctuations. It seems as if once an idea is born or a concept is developed, nothing can stop it from coming to fruition. Mystics would explain that as soon as a “heavenly light is drawn into this world, it becomes easily available to all.” Whatever the reason, we ought to focus on its vital lesson: Life is about paying heed to that which life asks of us. It is about asking the question of “what we are needed for” over the question of “what we need.”

If it is true that things will happen anyway once “their ‘light’ is drawn down” — if history has established that discoveries will be revealed regardless of their driving force — then we ought to act upon the callings of life. Even when doubt or idleness pervades, we ought to act lest we forfeit our personal destinies.

When It Is Wrong to Remain Silent

In one of the Bible’s most revealing narratives, Mordechai implores Queen Esther to beseech the King Ahasuerus on behalf of the Jewish people. His appeal penetrates the heart: “For if you remain silent at this time [and refuse to ask the king to annul the decree],” he warns her, “relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and the family of your father will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? This was the approach of many great men and women. They shared a unique ability to hear the heed the needs of their time, and they answered the call without delay.

The famed psychotherapist and bestselling author, Alfred Frankl, once wrote so poignantly: “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked… and to life he can only respond by being responsible.”iv Indeed, life is filled with moments that beg to be savored, chances that long to be realized, possibilities that crave to be actualized, and all that is asked of us is: Will we fulfill our responsibilities, or will we remain silent? Will we dare use our unique skills and talents to follow the callings of life? Will we muster the courage to act upon what we are needed for?

The Road to Purpose and Meaningful Achievements

This lesson holds especially true in our age where our personal desires often get in the way of our greater-than-self duties. Yet we ought to never become oblivious to all that which life has to offer. And we ought to remember that the blessings of life emerge precisely when we learn to synchronize what we want from life with what life wants from us. Herein lies the secret to a life of purpose and meaningful achievements.

Some twenty years ago, I sought the advice of my dear mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. After graduating high-school, I found myself at a crossroad, and I was doubtful as to which direction I should take. His down-to-earth advice was brief yet profound: “Our relationship with life is complex,” he remarked. “But as it is with all other relationships, the success of this relationship greatly depends on our ability to listen to life, at least as much as we expect life to listen to us.”

Let us develop our sense of hearing, and ensure to seize every opportunity that life offers, with unwavering resolve and determination.

Who knows? Perhaps history will then remember us kindly as well.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.