Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Heeding the Call

February 21, 2013 2:24 am 0 comments

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Photo:

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 *


  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Food Spirituality/Tradition ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

    ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah – Babka. Strudel. Stollen. Danish pastry. Not to mention Gugelhopf and Charlotte. The names set the mouth to watering and conjure up lovingly concocted pastries that feed the body and comfort the soul. If you didn’t have a grandmother who baked these delicacies, you wish that you had. George Greenstein was never a grandmother, but his life as a baker provided his children and grandchildren with memories infused with the smell of fresh baked bread and rugelach. His daughters, Julia […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’

    Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’ – There is a game that all of us have played at some time in our lives. We ask ourselves: What would my life be like if I had gone to this school instead of that one, or if I had married this girl instead of that one? In their newly published book The Ambassador, authors Yehuda Avner and Matt Rees play that game with modern Jewish history. Avner — who died earlier this year, and was a speechwriter, secretary and adviser to […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Lifestyle A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A unique group of young fashion bloggers and designers recently visited Israel to learn more about the country’s fashion industry and diverse culture. Hailing from the Philippines, Korea, Kenya, Japan, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K., the 10 participants toured the country and met with top Israeli fashion designers throughout last week. “It was an amazing experience,” said Meissene Maghni from Toulouse, France — one of the participants of the program. “I’m Muslim and I really wanted to see Israel […]

    Read more →