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Nature's Instinct & Torah's Law,
The Secret of the Union of Elohim & YHWH
Commentary to Torah Portion Shelah
By Ariel B Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel B Tzadok. All rights reserved.
It is amazing how natural evolutionary selection is guided by the Higher Hand of the Invisible Intelligent Designer, YHWH, the living Primary Sentience.
Nature has programmed into the animal kingdom a well-known physiological trait called the “flight-or-fight response.” Essentially, animals are naturally hard-wired to recognize threats, and to react to them instinctively by either fleeing the danger, or confronting it head on. So ingrained is the physiological trait within animals, we see its psychological presence within the “animal-side” of the human soul. As spiritual, and lofty as we humans may be, as long as we inhabit bodies of flesh and blood, we can never escape our Divinely ordained physiological history.
Long ago, our Sages taught that Torah speak in the language of man. In other words, the Torah that we have in our possession today is formatted to be human user friendly. Torah does not come to teach us how to live in Heaven as angels. On the contrary, Torah does come to teach us how to live on Earth as grounded, normal human beings. To live up to our human potential has always been a difficult task because, for the most part, we have forgotten, or we have never learned what it means to be fully human. How can we understand what the Torah is actually saying in the language of man, unless we first focus on developing our humanity?
Part of being human is to recognize the needs of our human physiology. As much as we are lofty spiritual beings, we are still beings of flesh-and-blood, with all the mundane, and natural associations attached to this. When Torah speaks in the language of man, it is speaking equally to our physical, animal side, as well as to our spiritual, philosophical side. Torah's lesson is that the two sides of our humanity can never be parted; they are two halves of the same whole. We are wholly physical, and we are wholly spiritual, both at the same time. This is our human reality, and this too is the reality of the Torah. This is how Torah speaks our collective human language.
Flight-or-fight is an instinct that the Creator ordained to be within the members of the animal kingdom, including its true king, humanity. Therefore, if God has placed this natural instinctual reaction within us, it is there by Divine Design. Its presence is therefore, an ordinance of natural Torah. God has made us all to react to danger with either flight or fight. This is only natural, as it is ordained by Divine Design. This instinct is within us physiologically, and psychologically. Now, with this being said, along comes the lesson of the written Torah that we have before us today.
Numbers 13-14 narrates to us a remarkable Biblical episode of the flight-or-fight response in full human psychological expression. This is the episode of the Children of Israel willingly entertaining a negative, fearful report about the Promised Land that they were set to invade and conquer.
The Torah narrates how Moses sends twelve spies from out of the wilderness to check out the Promised Land, and to then bring back reports of its strengths and weaknesses. After a period of over five weeks, the spies return. They bring back a rather thorough report, which both praises the Promised Land, but at the same time, warning that acquiring it would be way too hard for the nation of Israel to accomplish. In the face of danger, the old programmed flight-or-fight response kicked in. Rather than want to fight, ten of these twelve men wanted nothing other but to run, and to take flight. And their flight psychology was extremely contagious.
Upon hearing and seeing the flight response of the ten spies, the gathered people listening to them reacted in like kind, and they too fell into the “flight response.” A wave of collective cowardliness overtook the people. Rather than be inspired by the voices of the two spies, Joshua and Caleb, who tried to solicit a fight response from the people, the voices of the ten who spoke about flight dominated.
Now, let's be fair about this. The ten spies did not lie about what they saw. They told it like it was. Indeed, naturally speaking, the fight to conquer the Promised Land would be a daunting, uphill, seemingly impossible task. Who would not be intimidated by what the ten spies saw? Naturally speaking, would could blame the nation for collectively succumbing to the flight, instead of fight, response?
The reaction of the nation to what they heard was only natural. In light of psychology, the national reaction of flight was only normal. Why then would God, the Creator of the normal and the natural, get so upset with the people for acting naturally, and normally? This is how people were created to be, and this is how they are! Why should God get angry with the people who are acting the very way that He created them to act?
Here is where we need to apply the great rule, Torah speaks in the language of humanity. But first, we must understand what is Torah in the first place, and what does Torah augment to natural law that makes it a unique addition to our humanity.
Way back in Genesis the Bible states that God “breathed” into the human being His Divine “spirit of life.” According to many Torah commentators, it is this spirit of life that makes human beings the unique species here on Earth that we are. While all living species equally embrace a spirit of life, after all, nothing could or would be alive, unless it had within it what we call a spirit of life, what makes the human species different is the nature of the spirit of life within it.
While ancient beliefs hold that all life has a soul from God, the human species has a special level of soul from God that makes it a mirror reflection of the metaphorical Divine Image. While all life emanates from God, and shares in the Divine life-force, it is only the human race that is recorded to be “created” in the Image of God. This internal “Image” is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and defines for us our humanity.
Torah is believed to be the universal blueprint of all natural law. The laws of nature, and physics are thus the laws of Torah. The philosophical Greek Logos, the cosmic Quran, the universal Way, the Dao as understood in the Orient, all of these are metaphorical expressions describing in other cultural terms what the Jewish tradition calls Torah.
All of nature thus follows universal natural law, also expressed as the Logos, the Dao, or the Torah. As such, there is a natural way for nature to follow, and then there is a natural way for humanity to follow. Humanity is part and parcel of nature, and is, therefore, subject to all of natural law.
However, God also gave the Torah to the Earth, and from Mt Sinai, Torah has spread to the four corners of the Earth, and has elevated human consciousness. Humanity is not just another animal species subject to natural animal law. No, humanity has within it a Divine spirit. It is this Divine spirit, which defines our humanity, and calls out to us, individually and collectively, from within the recesses of our own souls to heed its higher calling.
We have now two voices that we here within us, the lower natural voice of our physiological origins, and the higher voice of our psychological inner spirit. It was these two inner voices that came into conflict with one another in the collective psyche of the nation as recorded in the Biblical narrative recorded in Numbers 13-14.
Upon exposure to the report of the ten spies, the people acted only naturally, and normally with an expected, and proper flight response. However, while this would be natural, and normal under almost all circumstances, once the Torah was received, and the people were made aware of their higher human potential, then instead of responding as the human animal would normally respond, the people were expected to react as the human spirit would demand. And this, they did not do.
The God who placed His Divine Image within humanity, and who made the people aware of its presence, teaching them how to embrace it, activate it and embellish it, was presented as being “angry” with the people when they did none of these things. Instead of rising up to embrace their inner, and higher human potential, the people, instead, sunk down, and grabbed the easier way of flight.
Essentially, God wanted the people (then and now) to rise up to the challenge, and fight the good fight when it is needed. In the wilderness, the collective people chose the opposite path, and embraced a lower physiological path, as opposed to a higher psychological path. This disrupted everything. Not only was God “angry” with them, but all of nature was “angry” with them, even their own inner souls were “angry” with them.
This is how the Torah speaks to us in the language of our humanity. This expression of Divine “anger” is a symbolic metaphor for the state of our own psychological disruption, and disunity every time that we pay no heed to our inner voice of psychological superiority over our physiological lower animal selves.
Flight or fight, which one is right? It all depends on the circumstances, and it all depends on the times. In the wilderness, while it may have been understandable to have chosen the flight response, nevertheless, it was not the right decision for that time, and timing in life is everything.
While we are part and parcel of nature, we are also part and parcel of Torah. There are, in actuality, not two voices competing inside us, forcing us to choose. Rather, there is only one voice, one way, one Dao, one Torah, and it is this voice that speaks for the One God. This was the message to the people in the wilderness, but instead of hearing one voice, they heard two. They heard the voice of this or that, of either-or. This flip flop is what led to them having to be quarantined in the wilderness for an entire generation.
Apparently psychological conditions can be as contagious as physical viruses. The generation in the wilderness caught a virus of fear and flight. It had invaded and permeated their souls. This illness thus weakened them, and disabled them from rising up to embrace their higher destiny.
Let us shift into “Kabbalah speak” to explain this within the mystical context. As is well known, there are two creation stories recorded in Genesis. In the first story, God, named Elohim, creates man, and in the second story, God, named YHWH, creates man. These two stories are Kabbalistically interpreted to be referring to two different aspects of humanity's “creation.” In the first story, humanity is created by Elohim, who is the God of nature. This refers to humanity's physical origins, the creation of his biological, physiological form. The second story is when YHWH breathes in humanity, His spirit, raising humanity above being merely intelligent animals. Two creation stories reflect the dual nature of our humanity, physical and spiritual.
At Mt Sinai, God was revealed to be both Elohim and YHWH, in other words, two names referring to two functions, but of the same Sentient Universal Mind. Torah was given to Earth with the purpose to awaken humanity to our higher, spiritual, inner component. We were no longer just biological creatures subject to the forces of nature. We have a higher power within us, that we can tap into, which can enable us to overcome all sorts of natural adversities. This is the message of Sinai. Yet, this was not a message easily absorbed.
Just forty days after receiving the message the nation erred in understanding it. They could not see the existence of this internal power that could raise them above the natural world itself. To reconfirm their commitment to the natural world, and all the natural forces and forms within it, they built themselves a symbol to represent it. This was the Golden Calf.
God was not amused. Yet, the message of Sinai was indeed brand new to the people. Even God knew that such a profound message of human potential would take time to absorb. So, the “sin” of the Golden Calf was forgiven. A mistake of the intellect is one that anyone could make.
With regards to the spies, we are a year later in time. The message of Sinai had plenty of time to sink it. The plan was in motion for the people to embrace their destiny, and to bring the grand message of humanity's higher potentials to the world. Then the ten spies spoke out and reminded the people of their natural limitations. Like a virus, the message of limitations, smallness, and perceived inability spread. The people cried because they were weak. The people cried because they were only human, and what can mere human beings do in the face of apparently insurmountable adversity. The people embraced their old identities.
Joshua and Caleb alone stood against the masses to remind everyone of their higher potential. But they were ignored. This choice of smallness over greatness set the course of future events. God realized that even though he could take the people out of the houses of slavery, not even Almighty He could take the spirit of slavery out of the minds of those who wish to embrace it. The only recourse for fear was to let itself die out. And so, an entire generation of people did nothing. Instead of rising up to accomplish, they just sat around, grew old, and died. They accomplished nothing!
Their children, on the other hand, grew up with a different spirit. They saw the failure of the parents, and rejected it. It was the new generation that embraced the message of human freedom over the adversities of nature. This new generation reset the course of history, and here we are millennia later to tell the story, and to bask in the benefits that they started to reap.
The lesson we learn from history is that we human beings are far more than just terrestrial biological animals no different from any other species on Earth. No! We are very different. We have added to our terrestrial, physical selves a higher dimension of spirituality. This is the Biblical “breath of God.”
With a spark of the Divine within us, we can never be content simply being intelligent animals. We have a component within us, that is not of this Earth. It is this spiritual component that enable us to rise up, and conquer as many “promised lands” that may lay before us.
In ancient times the Promised Land was a physical piece of real estate. Today's “promised lands” may be the discoveries of modern science. Tomorrow's “promised lands” may be our long awaited trips to the stars, and our colonization of space.
Nature's instincts and Torah's laws combine with us, and strengthen us to do that which neither one alone can accomplish. This is the secret of the Kabbalistic message of the union of YHWH and Elohim. The secret is that these two aspects of God are united within us.
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