IF ONLY I COULD SEE THE FOREST

AUTHORíS NOTE

'And this over here is a special computer specifically constructed to handle all the incoming data from our satellites on various missions throughout the Solar System," the science engineer commented proudly.

"And what happens with the information after itís received and stored?" asked one of the people on the tour.

"Well, nothing at this point ..." the engineer continued, a little sheepishly. "Weíre not quite set up to deal with the information. We hope by the next century weíll know what all this data means. In the meantime, over here we have ..."

"In the meantime ..." commented the questioner to his friend, "we canít even solve basic problems of life and yet weíre spending millions for information we canít even work with!"

We live in an "era of information", so much so that books are now being published offering advice on how to manage the daily flow of data. Once, such books might have been written for the computer analyst; now they are written for the average person in the street. If ever we didnít have time to stop and think, itís now. What will it be like in ten yearís time?

Are we any smarter? No question about it. Are we any wiser? That remains to be seen. We have yet to solve basic problems of daily living such as famine (though we know how to do it); wars rage in more places than ever before. Dictators control weapons of mass destruction, and the Western world turns its back on moral responsibilities that only 50 years it assumed. In the meantime, ideas about the origin of life become increasingly absurd.

Apparently itís not a true assumption that more knowledge means more wisdom. Wisdom certainly is enhanced with increased knowledge, but itís not an automatic result of it. Many people know a tremendous amount about specific things, yet know very little about life itself. In fact, previous generations that knew less about how the world works seemed to have known more about living a meaningful life.

The Talmud refers to someone who knows a lot and yet who lacks an appreciation of what they know as a library; today, weíd probably call such a person a computer. In Jewish consciousness, there is an understanding that knowledge is just the beginning of the struggle for a meaningful life. "I think therefore I am" may be true, but what one becomes depends upon how far they go beyond merely thinking.

As much as we are the "People of the Book", we are also a nation devoted to the pursuit of the knowledge behind the knowledge:

You grace man with knowledge, and You teach man knowledge, understanding, and discernment ...
We pray not just for aspects of understanding, but for levels of it. This process of learning is one of internalizing external knowledge, for it is on this level of knowing that one is impacted by an idea. And, it is on this level of understanding that inconsistency between knowledge and action disappears, resulting in growth.

However, it is not an easy process:

There are 48 Ways by which one acquires wisdom ... (Ethics of Our Fathers, 6:6).
which is probably why so many people avoid the issue altogether, and go no further than the simple understanding of everyday concepts.

Forty-eight ways? To acquire wisdom? Is it absolutely necessary? Canít I just learn by trial-and-error? If wisdom is so all-important, then why isnít it easier to acquire? Analysis is so time consuming.

Such questions, if asked in earnest, can begin a journey of thought that leads a person down what at first may appear to be a dark tunnel. But it is a fascinating and exhilarating journey, one that eventually leads to a crucial distinction between knowledge and wisdom, and eventually, back to where it all started, the original choice, the one we keep having to make.

But there is light at the end of this "tunnel", a very bright light, a supernal light, one unlike we have ever known:

And God said, ĎLet there be light!í (Genesis 1:3)
And we who were made in the image of God must also possess the potential to reveal such light. It remains only for us to discover how to do so, and once we do, we will be able to see the trees and the forest.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As always, there is a list of people to whom I owe gratitude, and the list only seems to grow. But I wish to emphasize appreciation to those people who have helped me to fulfill a special dream of returning back to Israel, a place of wisdom and a home of light: my wife and children, Ahava, Rivkah Malkah, Moshe Yosef, and Chananyah Aharon; my parents and in-laws, Jack and Betty Winston and Avrom and Rosalyn Neumark; dear friends and study partners, Helen and Joe Berman; both Aish HaTorah Toronto and Aish HaTorah Jerusalem. Thanks again goes to Bill and Shelly Herman. Thanks to Sam Veffer and Meira Svirsky for editing these manuscripts.

As well, thank you goes to Rebecca Shore for her painting used on the cover of this book, and to all the people whose stories and jokes appear in this and the other books in this series.

Above all (literally and figuratively), I thank God, Whose Torah is the source of my strength and joy, for allowing me to learn and spread His words of wisdom.

Hodu líHashem ki tov

Pinchas Winston
6 Sivan 5753

© by Mercava Productions

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