A large section of the intelligentsia seems wholly devoid of intelligence. -G. K. Chesterton
In physics, there is a principle of conservation of energy, whereby the total energy in a closed system can never increase. It can be transformed, it can be transferred, but there must always be a balance. All the energy that went into the system is accounted for.
The Sfat Emet in 5676 (1836) states that there is a similar principle at work in how we use our time and our faculties. He claims that every person, amongst other things, is gifted with a certain measure of intelligence, as well as with a life-force to accomplish what they set out to do. If a person uses all of their intelligence and life-force in the pursuit of material and mundane matters, they will not have any to spare for Torah and commandments, for the eternal and the spiritual.
He associates this lack with the biblical ailment known as “tzaraat” (often, but inaccurately translated as “leprosy”). When a person was occupied with a superficial existence, the signs would start to show on their skin. In our own day, by realizing that we are overly engaged with fleeting and less important items, we have the opportunity to re-prioritize our time and strengths and dedicate ourselves to what is truly healthy and important.
May we use our God-given intelligence and life-force only for good.
To our son Akiva who is starting his active military service this week.