Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - One-Dimensional World
A Simple Jew asks:
In his book "Jewthink", Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote:
"Picture before you a one-dimensional world, flat and absolutely thin, a line floating about in space. Now on this world lives a one-dimensional man shaped like a short line who lives there with his family and pet point. Now imagine our man trying to comprehend a two-dimensional world, where length and width exist, or even more preposterous, a 3-d world and the concept of depth. He simply cannot."
Have you ever considered what your life would be like without Yiddishkeit; what it would be like to return from a 3-d world to a one-dimensional world? Can you even begin to fathom what you would do to fill your days?
Chabakuk Elisha answers:
What a question!
Before I start, let me just mention that I remember Rabbi Shafran from my younger years back in mesivta (high school) when I was a student of his, and I'd have to say that he was one of my all-time favorite rabbeim at that. Moreover, his book "Jewthink" had a big impact on me; I recommend it highly. A short and concise book, it covers most of the "big issues" head on, and in plain and simple terms provides the view of what (for lack of a better term) could be considered Main-Stream Torah Yiddishkeit for the thinking man. For me it was compelling and calming.
In this quote, he is expressing the fundamental challenge a human being faces when trying to relate to G-d and G-d's ways: Just as our one-dimensional friend the line and his pet point are clearly hard pressed to relate to our world, so too, we are missing too many dimensions to comprehend G-d's reality.
Yet, in our decidedly limited reality, we humans find ourselves in a tough predicament: Unlike animals, we have the gift of intellect – this causes us to recognize the emptiness that surrounds us and pushes us to seek fulfillment in our lives and to add a dimension or two to the empty, mundane and colorless realities that we perceive. This is true for all religions, all belief systems, and all "isms" – some more so, some less so – and not exclusive to Yiddishkeit. Every path makes absolute claims and every believer thinks his path of choice has the answer to all of life's questions. Obviously, as a Jew, I believe that Judaism is the answer, and life sans-Yiddishkeit is hard to contemplate…to be sure, there would be a vacuum that would need to be filled.
Perhaps I would be sitting in the bleachers of some stadium, beer in hand, gut spilling over my belt, fist raised in the air, screaming "Yeah!" Because the question really is not if you will look for meaning in life, rather, it is WHERE you will find it. The story is told of an early group of Chabad Chassidim - they were once sitting together when the topic came up of what they would have been, had they not become Chassidim. R' Shmuel Munkas stood up and said: For example, Reb Isaac here would have been as great as the Shach or the Taz, and began to go around the room announcing what that individual chossid would have been, until one of the Chassidim spoke up and asked him: "And what would you have been?" Reb Shmuel turned to him with a smile and replied: "Me? I would have been the world's greatest alcoholic! Moreover, I would have used my charisma to convince misnagdim to pay for it!"
So, if you ask me what my life would have been, I cannot really know, but what is important to know is what we DO have – and to make sure that it indeed does fill our days – which is really what your question means, right?
(Picture courtesy of casperstartribune.net)