“Man: The most complex of beings, and thus the most dependent of beings. On all that made you up, you depend.” -Andre Gide
Plato’s Republic (circa 380 BCE) is considered the first text in our possession to compare a human being to a city. The parallels are many. We are composed of many different parts. We have many requirements. We have different elements vying for attention. Despite the different parts and demands, they need to get along harmoniously, there needs to be an internal balance, otherwise the entity ceases to function.
Plato goes on to compare the citizens of a city to the soul of a person, with its own divisions. The Ohr Hachayim however, draws parallel lessons from even earlier sources: “When thou drawest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.” Deuteronomy 20:10 (circa 1,300 BCE), as well as from Solomon’s Kohelet 9:14 (Ecclesiastes) (circa 800 BCE).
Based on the sources, The Ohr Hachayim compares a Canaanite city to a person under the sway of the Evil Inclination, while the attacking Israelites are the Good Inclination trying to wrest control of the person. The Ohr Hachayim explains that a direct frontal assault will not work. The Good Inclination needs to call out “peace” to the Evil Inclination and reach some areas of understanding. The Evil Inclination needs to understand some of the benefits of a noble lifestyle and to allow some of the baser instincts such as eating and drinking to serve the purposes of the Good Inclination. Such an approach as opposed to head-on all-out war gives the complete city, the complete person, a greater chance of victory.
May we keep our personal cities in order and channel our different parts in the right direction.
In Memory of Rabbi Avraham Chaim Roth (Rata) of blessed memory, Grand Rabbi of the Chasidic dynasty, the Shomrei Emunim. I have never met anyone with greater wisdom, saintliness and divine inspiration than the Admor of the Shomer Emunim. He had a great impact on my life and he will be sorely missed. May his memory be a blessing.