Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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 TykociÅ„ski-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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which started on Friday in New York City, features a mini-documentary about an elderly Jewish woman whose journey away from Orthodoxy leads her to taste forbidden food for the first time in her life. In Canadian director Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, Razie Brownstone talks about ending her lifelong observance of keeping kosher as her 90th birthday approaches. The recently declared atheist said the discovery of the search engine Google spurred a lapse in her Jewish faith and made her decide to […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Food Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    A Chabad rabbi from Rhinebeck, NY, will face off a priest, a pastor and a nun-in-training in an upcoming episode of the Food Network‘s reality show, “Chopped,” Lubavitch.com reported. Rabbi Hanoch Hecht – who teaches up-and-coming chefs about the intricacies of kosher dietary laws at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — was nominated for the show by a professional chef, and went through a rigorous interview process at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea, NY. Months later, he was informed he had been accepted as a contestant in the popular TV cooking competition. “I thought […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief by Asaf Romirowsky & Alexander H. Joffe (Palgrave Macmillan; 2013) Although this book came out several years ago, it remains pertinent. This is a meticulously researched book that concentrates on a very small bit of history: the time period from 1948-50 when the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, was organizing refugee relief in Gaza. Before UNRWA, the UN created the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). It outsourced […]

    Read more →