Monday, April 30, 2007

Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - One-Dimensional World

(Picture courtesy of

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


At April 30, 2007 at 12:43:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great question, great response, GREAT book.

I often think what life would be like had I not become Torah observant. I usually take a look in my old high school year book and realized that the majority of my old friends probably haven't changed that much. It's good motivation for me to keep growning.

At April 30, 2007 at 1:14:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. And the book really is great - I picked it up and I couldn't put it down.

At April 30, 2007 at 3:49:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I do not believe you would have become Budweiser Bill in the bleachers. If it hadn't been for Rabbi Pollack, you never would have heard of sports!

In any case, I'm glad you are what you are!

At April 30, 2007 at 4:31:00 PM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this post. I've been thinking a lot about this as I adopt more and more aspects of tznius into my life. Sometimes I see a pair of shoes or a dress that I would have bought in a flash in my old life, or I find myself comparing myself to women I see on the train or on the street, and I start to feel dumpy. Fortunately it only lasts for a minute, then I see how empty all that was. G-d willing, I'll pick up the book and read it.

ASJ, my apologies for the lack of comments on your pictures -- the last one was sooo nice -- I've been out of commission.

At April 30, 2007 at 7:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

chabakuk elisha:
I have an un-posted blog post called "My favorite book that most people have never read" praising how great JEWTHINK is. It's one of those writings that was written for a generation, yet is really for all generations, IMHO.

At April 30, 2007 at 8:31:00 PM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

Sounds like an interesting book.

Living by the Torah has made my life possible. I would not have my husband or child, not doubt, without it. It made me a person I had never been and virtually erased negative emotions that were ruling me. As Rabbi Lazer has said, investing in the Torah is an investment in something no one can ever take away from you. And of course one taps into the most powerful force in the universe, which makes anything possible.



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