The problem with us is that we think we know it all. The arrogant mantra of the age is, “I know. I know.” In other words, “Don’t tell me anything because I am a composite of brilliance and I have it all figured out.”
These feelings of intellectual superiority don’t only affect our relationships with others, but also come between us and G-d. And that arrogance, my friends, was injected into us by none other than the serpent in the Garden of Eden. But unlike an inoculation, it aims not to protect us, but rather to inflate us like hot-air balloons with feelings of superiority so that there is no room for G-d, nor for the words of the Torah or for those who disseminate its wisdom. The sentence: “I know better” is the downfall of mankind.
Our sages teach that the one who is wise is the one who learns from every person.
But who says that we can only learn from people? I once learned an important lesson from a porcelain cup. As I warmed up a delicious soup and poured it into my favorite mug, I started reading the ingredients on the can to search for the calorie count. I then realized that the soup wasn’t kosher! As I tearfully bid farewell to the noodles and threw away the soup, I also had to stop using that cup, which had become not kosher due to the heated content. It made me think that we too are all vessels, “cups,” who must be constantly vigilant about what we are allowing to fill us up.
What we allow in will change us forever. No interaction is neutral or leaves us the same as before. When the Rabbis taught this through the ages, some scoffed and said, “I know better.” Now, quantum entanglement proves that when two or more particles link up in a certain way, no matter how far apart they are in space, their states remain linked and they influence each other. Every action creates a change in ourselves and in our environment.
Our five senses are the openings through which we take in life, the means through which we fill that “cup” known as our brain. A person is his brain, because the soul is housed in the brain. And the brain never forgets what it saw or heard. So who and what is feeding your brain and soul?
What are you choosing to view? What are you choosing to listen to? What are you eating? Who are you touching? Do not for one moment take for granted the access points through which we imbibe life. We may think we are impervious to listening to hateful things; we may think we can watch whatever we want on TV and just close the channel and it’s over. But that is not the case. Human beings are even more porous than a porcelain cup, and are continually altered by what they allow their senses to absorb.
This week we begin the Torah cycle anew by reading Genesis, describing the creation of Adam and Eve. We learn that the senses, except the sense of smell, led Eve to sin. She opened her ears to the snake’s beguiling tongue; she visually lusted for the beauty of the forbidden fruit; she touched it; she tasted it. She let in all the wrong things — one fateful step at a time — and shattered the pure vessel that she was, bringing all of mankind down with her.
Why did this happen? Because Adam and Eve believed they knew better than G-d, like so many of us today who use of our limited intellects to eliminate commandments in the Torah. We put our egos in charge of the “Discontinued Department” and decide what parts of Judaism are irrelevant to us because they may interfere with our desires and lusts, our plans and our passions.
After mankind sinned, G-d called out to Adam and Eve and asked, “Where are you?” The All-knowing G-d certainly knew where they were, and this question continues to echo to mankind throughout the ages.
“Where are we in proximity to G-d’s will when we are eating, thinking, talking, watching, listening, reacting, coming, going, doing, loving, spending, vacationing and working?”
How are you filling your cup? What kind of person are you becoming through your choices? How are you making man? Where are you? Just remember that there is no interaction that leaves you as you were before. So tread carefully as you make your choices, because they will create who you become.