By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
January 15, 2012
Can you tell the difference between these two lists of questions?
What is the best way to treat tuberculosis?
• What is the quickest way to get to New York from Los Angeles?
• How high can a skyscraper be built?
• What is the best way to obtain energy?
What is the best way to cope with feelings of anger?
• Can love be sustained or is it destined to fade?
• How do we best find consolation in the face of death?
• How do we raise children to respect their parents?
• What would a meaningful work-life look like?
I am sure you got it. List A comprises questions for which the answers change.
It is easy to find the current answers to List A type questions. Study the latest scientific data. Each year as we acquire more knowledge and achieve greater technological prowess, those answers change.
In List B, however, the answers never fundamentally change. Regardless of new advances in science, technology, or medicine, the answers to those questions remain the same.
These kinds of questions gnaw away at people. Long ago, people turned to Scripture for the answers. About the time of the Renaissance, secularism started spreading its sordid stain and universities replaced the study of God’s teachings with literature. People studied Seneca the Roman philosopher partly to learn his views on anger management. They read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Flaubert’s Madame Bovary to gain insight into the complex dynamics of marriage and studied Shakespeare’s plays for understanding the entire range of human emotions.
As time went on, we turned to science for the answers as if the human soul was nothing more than $9.75 worth of common chemicals cunningly arranged into millions of neurological wiring systems. Thus the pages of popular magazines like Scientific American and Psychology Today offered the 'latest ‘scientific information' on the role of intimacy in marriage and how human interactions work. Of course it helps that a tolerant readership overlooked the fact that one month’s advice frequently contradicted that from another issue of the same magazine eighteen months earlier.
Rather than ignoring the Bible in a search for answers to List B, we might be better off if, like many scientists of old, we turned to the Bible for List A as well.
Yesterday at lunch, historian David Barton of Wallbuilders mentioned to me that famed oceanographer, Lieut. Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) of the U.S. Navy, cited this verse as the impetus for his brilliant discovery of ocean currents:
birds of the heaven
and the fish of the sea
all travel along the paths of the seas.
Astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a pioneer in understanding the laws of planetary motion, credited his scientific research to a recognition that God made an orderly world and our job was to discover the rules of that order.
Rather than scoffing at Bible study while worshipping science, we should have the humility to recognize that the Bible may have much to teach us. Needless to say, especially when dealing with the very real List B questions which have to do with successfully living our lives, we should admit that the most modern developments have hardly produced spectacular success.
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So what are we to do? The answer, to me, is clear, and I think you’ll agree that there is really nothing to lose in giving my answer a fair try.
My answer is that we must again turn back to the Bible for these answers. Just as Psalms 8:9 did not reveal the specific currents of the North Atlantic, but pointed Maury in the right direction, we do not find answers neatly laid out. Yet the Bible, especially understood with the aid of ancient Jewish wisdom, is utterly reliable as our compass. Try it with me for 2012. What is there to lose?
I am very excited to announce the debut of the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show DVD. For over a year, my wife and I have had tremendous fun appearing on the TCT network and we have picked four of our favorite shows to share with you. You may even find some of the answers to List B type questions while watching!
© 2012 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved
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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.
You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.
Web Site: www.rabbidaniellapin.com