Yehonatan Ben Israel
Yehonatan Ben Israel

Fear in the Midst of Confusion: Where Do We go?

“According to the Kabbalist Rabbi Abraham Azulai (1570-1643), the purpose of the Babylonian exile was to humble Israel. Before the destruction, the Jews reached the peak of their strength and prosperity. Unfortunately, such circumstances tended to distract them from their awareness of G-d. In this state of comfort, they no longer struggled to know the Divine will. Instead, they indulged themselves in their own thoughts and feelings and justified them. They felt the liberty to do this because they interpreted their physical comfort as a Divine validation of their lives: They were under the illusion that they could decide their own truths.

“Regardless of its intended corrective measures, the Babylonian exile had a severe psychological effect on the Jewish psyche. The Hebrew name for Babylon is Bavel, which is related to the Hebrew word “confusion” (Bilbul)…This confusion stems from the conflict between the true essence of our soul, which is an expression of Divine will, and our conscious thoughts and feelings as they fluctuate between the conscious and unconscious realms. Such confusion and conflict is the source of depression.”

— From “Israel and the Seventy Dimensions of the World, by Sarah Gila Nadborny-Burgeman

Back when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree, I remember an archaeology professor I had. He was probably one of my favorites because whether you disagreed with him or not, he was humble enough to say “I don’t know” whenever he was asked a question that he didn’t have the answer to. Interestingly enough, one of the things he also told us in his class was that often archaeologists in academia tended to vehemently defend their theories for the sake of maintaining their funding from whatever academic institution that they were being sponsored by, rather than be open to criticism or disproof. It’s probably been about twelve years since that class I took with him, and yet somehow that memory stays in my mind. It would seem that this anecdote in the class taught us a lesson:

That money not only talks, but that it also has the power to seduce and ultimately deceive. 

In his book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks states,

“The market economy has generated more real wealth, eliminated more poverty and liberated more human creativity than any other economic system. The fault is not with the market itself, but with the idea that the market alone is all that we need. Markets do not guarantee equity, responsibility, or integrity. They can maximise short-term gain at the cost of long-term sustainability. They cannot be relied upon to distribute wealth fairly. They cannot guarantee honesty. When confronted with flagrant self interest, they combine the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity. Markets need morals, and morals are not made by markets.

“They are made by schools, the media, custom, tradition, religious leaders, moral role models and the influence of people. But when religion loses its voice and the media worships success, when right and wrong become relativised and all talk of morality is condemned as ‘judgmental’, when people lose all sense of honour and shame and there is nothing they will not do if they can get away with it, no regulation will save us… Markets were meant to serve us; we were not meant to serve markets. Economics need ethics. Markets do not survive by market forces alone. They depend on respect for the people affected by our decisions. Lose that and we will lose not just money and jobs but something more significant still: freedom, trust, and decency, the things that have a value, not a price.” (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Dividing Times. Chapter 6, “Markets Without Morals”).

As already implied by Rabbi Sacks, when it comes to schools, the media, customs, traditions, religious leaders, moral role models and the influence of people, what happens when the market itself brings a strong influence on them? Like Rabbi Sacks, I have no problem whatsoever with the idea of the capitalist system itself, or for that matter, international trade. International trade itself has been going on throughout all of human history from nearly the very beginning and is usually extremely healthy for all countries and societies.

Nevertheless, the sad truth of the matter is that as time goes on, the market–not truth–seems to be that which is the most influential. “It’s the economy, stupid!” Indeed, it seems as though anything with a voice at all in today’s world by necessity has to be backed by at least one and/or a certain number of corporations. Any mainstream news network that we see, any politician, any celebrity, and I’m afraid indeed, any scientist which is able to attain a large following must by necessity be backed by corporate funding. This may be just fine as long as the message being sent out is one that doesn’t interfere with the policy of the corporation that sends the funds, but when it does, it would seem only to be common sense that a detour be taken on the road of truth and honesty for the sake of corporate PR–which on a very strong level is the backbone of any organization trying to make a profit.

Indeed, this is the way deals in the market work–“I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Anyone who receives funding from a corporation automatically is a mouthpiece for said corporation on some level–whether it be scientist, religious leader, politician, news anchor, and so on. This is business. And so said mouthpiece is meant to only represent the interests of it’s funding corporation. To bring any information that delegitimizes said corporation in any way is to lose one’s income at best, or to suffer public humiliation and delegitimization at worst.

Thus, especially pertaining to the mainstream media, social media, and Hollywood, the agenda for profit feeds into what narrative and perspective the general populous has, with the exception (One would hope) of some unique minds on the fringes calling out for truth.

How interesting it is then that we in today’s world are swamped with countering narratives and perspectives, indeed, oftentimes narratives of polar opposite sides– almost reflecting the vehement competition between corporations themselves! We’ve all seen that such tensions have led to broken friendships, high stress, and even in some cases, anxiety and other mental health issues. Such tragic events as these truly are enough to bring a person to heavy sadness and even further disconnection between his/her peers.

The truth of the matter is this:  That happy, healthy people are satisfied with life.  If people are satisfied with life, then they won’t feel the overwhelming wantonness to consume. If they don’t have the overwhelming wantonness to consume, then it’s bad for business. Unhappiness and lack of contentment among all consumers is good for business. Lack of contentment and unhappiness cause the consumer to attempt to fill those mental/emotional voids with “things.” When this happens, general demand for the product goes up, and thus so can the price. Hence, the corporations make a higher profit and the market runs ever upward. I’m sure that by writing this I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but even without asserting that there is a conspiracy, one could see this as a general trend and policy even at the subconscious level of any corporation. In this case, much like the militaristic strategy of “dividing and conquering” of the enemy, the “dividing and selling” to the consumer would seem to be the underlying, unwritten policy. Even so, I would assert that one should not be so naive as to think that this basic psychological concept has not been acknowledged behind closed doors by heads of corporations.

Considering all of these factors,  it may be worthwhile for someone to consider today’s social media platforms and the scientific medical field and their strong affiliation to the extremely large corporate pharmaceutical companies.  Both Facebook, Google (Which owns Youtube as one of its branches), and the pharmaceutical companies who have produced the vaccine are all co-partners in The World Economic Forum. Thus considering social media’s recent moves of censorship over the past year, and fact-checking on “misinformation” pertaining to the vaccine, would it not be prudent to consider that this fact-checking and locking people out of their accounts–even political and medical personnel–is not about truth and welfare, but about profit and silencing what one corporation would perhaps not even deem a lie, but an “advertisement” of a “competitor,” whether it be the truth or not?

In such a state of lack of clarity, we are most definitely in what some have taken to calling an era of “Post Truth.” Indeed, Rabbi Sacks states pertaining to our Post Truth era,

“In a world without a basic moral code, do not expect truth to survive. That is our world today. The manipulative use of social media in the interests of economics and politics, wealth and power, has led us directly into a post-truth era in which trust in public institutions is at an all-time low. That is what happens when we try to run a society based on the market and the state alone.” (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. Chapter 11 “Post Truth.”)

Indeed for my part, I have these days serious doubts pertaining to certain private and public institutions (As the reader can see from this blog), and I do further believe that this lack of trust mentioned above is justified. As time goes on I believe that we will have more new variants of COVID, and thus more new booster shots that will show themselves not to work in the face of this crisis, while those in power continue to insist that these shots be taken at shorter and shorter intervals, all the while pushing an agenda of growing animosity towards people who refuse. This would lead to a certain type of cognitive dissonance, which would essentially lead to a kind of complacent confusion upon those who have been and continue to be vaccinated. Profit and therefore power and control is the name of the game here.  People are easy to profit from and control when both complacent and confused.

To reference the first quote above, I believe a type of metaphorical tower of Babel, Bilbul, “Confusion” has progressively been and continues to be built–directly or indirectly, consciously or subconsciously, on purpose or by accident–by those in power and often times by all of us in one way or the other.

Thus while I could be wrong–and I would be happy to be wrong–I believe that we are heading towards a time that we will be put in a position of making an extreme choice between one or the other–to turn to a corporate-science-body of leadership that continually fails in living up to it’s assurances, or to look up to the Divine.

In such a position of confusion, Rabbi Avraham, the son of the Rambam writes,

“…You undoubtedly must help yourself with the things God has designated for repelling dangers. You know that even though a principle of the Torah is ‘I put to death, and I give life’ (Devarim 32:39), it also says, when you build a new house, you must make a fence on the roof, and do not cause (The spilling of) blood in your house…”

Yet further, he states,

“…If you find yourself in a place with no cures,–for example, if you are stung in the desert, where there is no theriac or bezoar (Types of antidotes), or you experience abdominal pain while in an area isolated from doctors and medicines–all you have left is reliance (On G-d). Likewise, if you are in the midst of an ocean in a terrible storm, with the sails broken, and the crew bewildered, all you have left is reliance (On G-d). God knows the extent of the danger, and He does not want the extent of His compassion to disappoint you. He can save even when you can cling to no other cause.  He saved Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25. Men who were also experiencing a Babylonian exile) and Daniel from the lions’ den in the merit of their great righteousness…” (Rabbi Avraham, son of the Rambam, The Guide to Serving God. Chapter 8 “Trust”).

In such an era of confusion and suppression, the best thing that we could all do would be to look up to the Divine trust what we do know to be of natural help, and not to trust in the potential hidden agendas of corporate science.

Should we be confronted with the extreme choice of a deceptive cure or complete reliance on G-d, may we all “fall into the hands of Hashem, for a great multitude are his mercies, and into the hand of mankind, let me (us) not fall…” (II Samuel 24:14)

About the Author
Yehonatan was born in Dover, Tennessee, US. After converting to Judaism under the conservative movement, he made Aliyah, and converted again in Jerusalem under the Israeli Rabbanut at Machon Meir. He lives in Kiryat Arba/Hevron with his wife and daughter.