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Ynet: “Excuse Me, What Are We Guilty Of?”

From my column in Ynet: “Excuse Me, What Are We Guilty Of?”

Elul is the last month on the Hebrew calendar, so it is considered a month for reflection about the past year and preparation for the new year. For what and why should we ask forgiveness, and how must we act when the reason is discovered? Rav Michael Laitman teaches how to really forgive.

14 billion years ago, the Big Bang occurred, and the universe was created. An enormous amount of energy that was concentrated into one tiny point exploded in every direction, and the universe began to expand at a tremendous speed. The many particles that were created gathered into atoms, and the atoms into stars and galaxies. Billions of years after that, the inanimate planet Earth was formed, and plants and animals developed on it until the birth of humanity.

Man lived peacefully and calmly, in balance with the rest of humanity and the forces of nature, until suddenly another explosion occurred. “The Big Bang of humanity” shattered the pastoral unity in human society, and began to distance people from each other, similar to the way stars in the universe continue to drift apart.

The negative, egoistic, and unconscious force of separation that operated to make distance between us was identified for the first time by a human being named Adam. He understood that he must heal the rift between his contemporaries. Since he was the first to bring a substantial change in the system of broken relationships between people, we have a custom of celebrating his discovery on Rosh HaShanah.

14 billion years ago, the Big Bang happened, and the universe was created

Since then, 5,777 years have passed. We count them according to the Hebrew calendar, and every year we are accustomed to reexamining the essence of our lives and our role in this world. One of the questions that can help us to define our situation is: have we become closer to each other this year above our natural tendency that separates us, or haven’t we? This soul-searching is called Slichot (asking for forgivenesses), and to internalize its meaning, we must go on a short journey through time.

Introducing the Israeli Team

Twenty generations have passed since that human being developed his observations and was called Adam HaRishon (The First Man) and until most of humanity settled in the center of the ancient world, ancient Babylon.

In this period, two natural opposing forces were working on humanity: the force of connection, the positive force that strives to develop society by maintaining connections of mutual responsibility, and opposite it, the force of separation, the negative force that is controlled by the egoistic nature. The negative force is what distanced and separated the inhabitants of Babylon to a previously unfamiliar level until, finally, they stopped talking to each other and became enemies. These opposing forces of nature that clashed with each other caused a difficult crisis, but just as a plant sprouts from a seed in the ground that cracks open, so from the crisis between people, a new humanity was born.

The social rift continued to develop, and humanity was scattered over the face of the Earth. Only a small group of people decided to defy the forces of nature and actually oppose the process of separation. Burning within these people was an inner drive that compelled them to connect with each other.

This chosen group called itself “Israel” because their desire to be Yashar – El (straight to God), like the characteristic of the whole and eternal force of nature. Elsewhere, they were called “Hebrews” (Ivrim) because they already had moved (Avar) toward acting according to the laws of nature, or “Jews” (Yehudim) because they were acting to unite (Yichud) and harmonize with nature.

At the head of this group stood Abraham, an uncompromising researcher who was searching for the meaning of life. He was the first to identify the reason for the crisis: the developing egoism that separates and puts distance between people. Abraham urged his students to be strong, to rise up, and to strengthen the spirit of unity with all of their might above the terrible schism. Their efforts to connect aroused a positive force inherent in nature. This force balanced the negative tendency and connected them with a strong bond that was called “one man in one heart.” From these efforts, Abraham developed a method for connection that he taught to all who came to him. This method made it possible for the members of the group to begin to develop a system of relationships between them based upon giving, love, and mutual responsibility that they called Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

The Turning Point in Human History

Once the children of Israel reached a maximum level of connection between them, the situation deteriorated, and the connections weakened. They understood that in order to strengthen the connections between them, they needed to be connected to their Babylonian brothers who had dispersed and become the seventy nations of the world. Brotherly love was replaced by unfounded hatred, leading not only to the destruction of the system of relationships of the “Temple,” but also the destruction of the physical Temple and continued with the crash of the united kingdom of Israel. The force of ego continued to divide the Babylonians and sowed hatred in every direction.

A Good and Sweet Year.

For 2,000 years, the Jews assimilated among the nations of the world. On the one hand, the spark that Abraham sowed in the people of Israel began to flourish in the heart of humanity, and on the other hand, the Jews absorbed new egoistic desires and opinions. The conclusion of the global merging marks the starting point for a real process that is leading to a turning point in human history.

Slichah, the Error Between Reality and Desire

In the global and connected world of our day, the people of Israel and the seventy nations of the world are immersed together in a common trouble, a bit like Adam HaRishon 5,777 years ago, or Abraham 3,500 years ago. The dramatic crisis that has visited us today is the result of the same imbalance between the opposing forces of nature. The ego creates conflict and division, and causes us to become distant from each other. In contrast, the power of connection develops people, mending the broken parts into a complete, harmonious system.

In the first generations, we did not understand how the forces of nature operated because we didn’t have the tools in our hands for doing this, but once a point of connection was first created in Babylon, we were required to strengthen and develop it when faced with all of the states of separation. Abraham left us a method and a mission: to provide the world with the power of connection until it reaches a harmonious and balanced state.

In order not to make a mistake on the way to the destiny that nature has placed before us, we need to carry out a daily house cleaning and examine in depth how much we have advanced toward connection between us and whether we are still on our way toward the same network of complete connection that Adam HaRishon discovered.

This essential clarification is called Slichot, the discovery of the gap between the forces of nature that aim toward unity and our unwillingness to unite. It is symbolically customary before Rosh HaShanah for us to clarify together the degree to which we are acting in accord with the laws of nature of the entire system. Regarding this, we confess that, “We are guilty, we have betrayed, we have robbed …” and we regret the opportunity that was in our hands to realize the connection between us and we did not do it. Now is the right time to consider a new path toward connection.

I hope, wish, and pray for a year of change, a year of building a system of correct relationships between us.

Happy new year to all of the people of Israel!
[194096]
From Ynet: “Excuse Me, What Are We Guilty Of?” 6/2/16

Ynet: “How Do We Build Jerusalem If There Is A Ruin In Our Heart?”

Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and the Temple embody within them much more than what comes to mind when we first think about them. Their spiritual meaning leads us to the necessary understanding that the connection between us is not only for our sake, but for the sake of all of humanity.

Forty-nine years ago, paratroopers entered Jerusalem, liberated the Old City, and united it. It seems that there is no city in the world in which every stone within it is steeped in a history so important to the shaping of the human species. The city that gives hope to an entire people is today the focus of outrageous announcements devoid of all logic from UNESCO, that “the Jewish people have no religious connection with the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.”

International organizations are trying to sever the connection between the Jewish people and their heritage. The EU intervenes in every activity in the city, and given the pace of events, don’t be surprised if the enlightened world wakes up tomorrow morning and decides that Jerusalem is not connected to the nation of Israel, and this doesn’t just mean the separation of East Jerusalem.

Tireless efforts and money are invested in creating a false consciousness, which must awaken this question in the heart of each one of us: How can it be that the capital of Israel—an ancient city that encompasses within it the abundant history of the people of Israel, our religion, and our culture, the city in which two Temples were built and, unfortunately, also were destroyed—is liable to be erased from the map of the land of Israel? In general, from where has such a decisive opposition popped up among the nations of the world to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? What does this say about the negative attitude toward us as a people?

We Have the Key to the Gates

The wisdom of Kabbalah maintains that the reason for this persecution lies in our not having realized our role as a people, a role that is rooted within us from the nature of creation, upon whose basis the people of Israel were established. According to ancient wisdom, humanity is connected by a network of mutual links. Within this network, the people of Israel were intended to be “a light unto the nations[FD1] ,” which is to say, connected so that the positive force that is inherent in nature would stream into the world and function to connect people and nations.

The world subconsciously feels that the source of all evil and the root of the suffering that it is experienced is derived directly from the fact that the people of Israel are not realizing their role. This feeling continues to bubble up more and more, and is crystallizing into an agenda that is expressed in the attempts to boycott the nation of Israel. Voices from the international community are calling for a recognition that the world was mistaken when it allowed the establishment of the Jewish nation in the Middle East and that perhaps the hour has arrived to take back the scepter.

Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) writes:

“Judaism must present something new to the nations. This is what they expect from the return of Israel to the land! It is not in other teachings, for in that we never innovated. In them, we have always been their disciples. Rather, it is the wisdom of religion, justice, and peace. In this, most nations are our disciples, and this wisdom is attributed to us alone. …”

“This would certainly prove to the nations the rightness of Israel’s return to their land, even to the Arabs. However, a secular return such as today’s does not impress the nations whatsoever, and we must fear lest they will sell Israel’s independence for their needs, needless to mention returning Jerusalem.” (Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “The Writings of the Last Generation,” Part 1, Section 12, pp. 75-76.).

UNESCO, the UN, the EU, and the rest of the international bodies that protect us are a kind of reflection for us of the lack of fulfillment of our function. In other words, we are determining our fate with our own hands. If the world is exhibiting so much hatred and anti-Semitism toward us that it denies the connection between our people and our home, it depends only upon us. In our hands is the choice to decide the future of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, for better or for worse. All that is up to us to do is to decide to implement an essential change in the interpersonal relationships between us, connecting as “one man in one heart” instead of each person being concerned only about himself. As a result of the positive force that we create among us, we balance the forces of separation and bring to completion the system of connection between people. The forces of connection between us also will permeate the nations of the world and oblige them to begin a similar process as well, to connect and recognize us as the origin of connection and goodness.

“The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself.” (Psalms 122:3)

According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, there is a parallel and direct connection between the system called the spiritual land of Israel and the state of the physical land of Israel. The desire (Ratzon -רצון) that is in the heart of a person is called Eretz -ארץ, the land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael – ), which has a desire Yashar El (Straight to God), meaning that it has narcissistic desires, but only love for others (The Writings of Rabash). “Jerusalem – ירושלים” comes from the words “Ir Shalem” (Perfect/Whole City) and Irah – יראה (Fear), a city that is built on the fear of separation, representing the sense of necessity in preserving the perfected connection between us.

In the center of the shared fear of Israel, right in the heart of the connection between us, a unique spiritual stratum is revealed that is called the Temple Mount. In it, we build the Temple, a term for a more internal connection between us, a shared desire for love. The moment we stop striving for inner connection, the links begin to unravel, and the people of Israel are expelled. When the roots hidden in the earth are uprooted, this kills the entire tree. That is how the first Temple was destroyed, that is how the second Temple was destroyed, and that is how it has continued until today. And this is not the destruction of a building constructed from wood and stone, but the destruction of the network of love  between us that connects into one. This is because “The house [Jerusalem] was ruined because of unfounded hatred” (Rabbi Israel Segal, Netzah Israel, Chapter 4).

The same general rule applies in our day, “According to the connection of the people of Israel and their awakening to love and fear, Jerusalem is built” (Koznitzer Maggid). Jerusalem will be built only when we establish it first in our hearts with corrected relationships of connection and love. Until then, the unfounded hatred will continue, and Jerusalem will remain as a ruined capital until then, as a torn city full of conflict and bloodshed, for instead of a place where love dwells, after the destruction, the power of separation and hatred dominates.

“The Messiah sits in the gate of Jerusalem and waits for people to be worthy of redemption. He is in cuffs and needs complete people to release him from his chains. …now he craves men of truth” (Sayings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel). The wisdom of Kabbalah, the wisdom of truth, is a method that teaches us how to connect and apply the general rule, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). With the help of the power of connection, we can realize our role as a nation and restore the spiritual concept of Jerusalem to its full glory.

Then, Jerusalem will become the capital of love for all of humanity. As it is written, “In the future, Jerusalem will be like all of Israel, and Israel will be the entire world” (the Yalkut Shimoni). Then the world will understand the words of the prophets: “…for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), and “for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest” (Jeremiah 31:33 ).
What else did the sages of Kabbalah write about Jerusalem?
[187517]
From Ynet article 6/2/16

Like A Bundle Of Reeds

Like A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Afterword

Humanity deserves to be united into a single family. At that time all the quarrels and the ill will that stem from divisions of nations and their boundaries shall cease. However, the world requires mitigation, whereby humanity will be perfected through each nation’s unique characteristics. This deficiency is what the Assembly of Israel will complement.
—The Rav Kook, Orot HaRaaiah [Lights of the Raaiah], Shavuot, p 70

It has not been easy to write this book. I have written dozens of books, but none has been as emotionally demanding or intellectually challenging. For many years now, I have known the task that stands before us, but I have always been hesitant about writing directly to my Jewish brethren. I did not wish to be perceived as condescending or overbearing, and being tediously preachy or admonitory is not high on my “To Do” list.

And yet, my Kabbalah studies with Rabash taught me that the direction in which the world is moving is en route to ending in mayhem. That is why the Rabash’s father, Baal HaSulam, as well as his son, were more eager to circulate the ancient wisdom as a cure to humanity’s soaring egotism than any previous Kabbalist.

Baal HaSulam was anxious about the growing global interdependence early in the 1930s, when very few people in the world were even conscious of the process. He knew that it would lead to an irresolvable crisis if humanity did not support that mutual dependence with mutual guarantee, that human nature would not be able to tolerate the contrast between interdependence and mutual aversion.

At the same time, even at that early stage in our globalization, Baal HaSulam realized that the process was irreversible, that because we are parts of a single soul, a single desire, we are inherently connected. He also knew, as did all the sages quoted in this book, that the goal for which we were created was not for people to be strangers and hateful, but to bond and unite through the quality of bestowal.

Today we see how right he was. We are hopelessly ill-connected, and vehemently resentful of it. Our social systems, such as economy, health, and education, assume that ill will is the foundation of human relations, and therefore each entity shores itself up through regulations, legislations, and solicitors.

But this modus operandi is unsustainable. As good families assume goodwill among family members, all members of humankind must learn to trust one another.

However, as shown throughout the book, because our egos constantly evolve and emphasize our uniqueness rather than our unity, we need a method to help us achieve unity atop our disparity, without suppressing or nullifying it. That method is rooted in the spiritual patrimony of our people, and is the gift of the Jews to humanity, the salvation that the nations all await from the Jews.

The gift can be handed down through the wisdom of Kabbalah, through Integral Education, by the means that Baal HaSulam suggested in The Nation, or by any other means that will yield a fundamental change in human nature from divisiveness to unity, from animosity to empathy and care. If we achieve that unity, then the more we differ in our character, the stronger and warmer will be our bond. As Rabbi Nathan Sternhertz described it, “It primarily depends on man, who is the heart of Creation, and on whom everything depends. This is why ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is the great klal [“rule,” but also “collective”] of the Torah, to include in unity and peace, which is the heart of the vitality, persistence, and correction of the whole of Creation, by people of differing views being included together in love, unity, and peace.”[i]

Indeed, the beauty of our people is in its unity, its cohesion. Our nation began as a group of individuals who shared a common desire: to discover life’s essential force. We discovered that it was, in a word, “love,” and we discovered it because we developed that quality within us. That force of love united us, and in the spirit of love, we sought to share our discovery with anyone who willed it.

Over time, we have lost our connection, first with each other, then with the force we discovered through our bond. But now the world needs us to rekindle that bond, first among us, and subsequently among the whole of humanity.

We are a gifted nation, a nation with the gift of love, which is the quality of the Creator. Receiving this gift is the goal for which humanity was created, and we are the only conduit by which this love can flow to all the nations. Since the dawn of humanity, “never have so few owed so much to so many,” to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s words. And yet, never have so few been capable of giving so much to so many.

Indeed, as Baal HaSulam says, “It is upon the Israeli nation to qualify itself and all the people of the world … to develop until they take upon themselves that sublime work of the love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of Creation, which is Dvekut [equivalence of form] with Him.”[ii]

[i] Rabbi Nathan Sternhertz, Likutey Halachot [Assorted Rules], “Rules of Tefilat Arvit [Evening Prayer],” Rule no. 4.

[ii] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “The Arvut [Mutual Guarantee],” item 28 (Ashlag Research Institute, Israel, 2009), 393.

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 7

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

Our Privilege, Our Duty, Our Time

One last thing needs to be mentioned regarding education of adults, youths, and children. No form of Integral Education will succeed if it aims only to improve our material lives. While this is a desirable goal, it will not be achieved without a profound understanding that all of humanity is moving toward an era of interconnectedness and interdependence because this is the Law of Nature.

People do not need to call it “the Creator.” There is no need for anyone to aspire to attain a higher, deeper, broader level of perception unless it is their will. However, people will have to know that equivalence of form, being like the Law of Nature, meaning interconnected, behooves us to adapt our way of life accordingly.

The ones who set the curriculum and design the study programs will have to be as just described, meaning Kabbalists. That said, Kabbalah studies will never be mandatory because only those who wish to transform themselves, to dedicate themselves to the service of others, and genuinely wish to acquire the quality of bestowal will devote themselves to this vocation.

Granted, such a social transformation is a hefty task. And yet, we Jews have been transformed before, and whether dormant or awake, the reminiscence of that transformation exists within us all. No other nation has been given the task of redeeming humanity, as have the Jews, and no other nation has been given the inherent tools to do so. It is our calling; it is our privilege; it is our duty; and it is our time.

It is out of that sense of commitment that the above suggested education method has been devised. It may sound like a rather unorthodox method, but its foundations are rooted deep within our history and deep within our souls, and its “tenets” have been tested successfully by other doctrines. It will succeed if we unite, and it will fail if we do not. As our sages said, “Great is the peace, for even when Israel idol-worship but there is peace among them, the Creator says, ‘It is as though I cannot govern them because there is peace among them.’”[i]

I would like to end with a reference to the words of Baal HaSulam at the end of his “Introduction to the Book of Zohar.” He concludes his introduction with a statement that if Israel should carry out their mission and bring happiness to the world through unity and acquisition of the quality of bestowal, the words of Prophet Isaiah will come true, and the nations shall join us and help us in our mission. As Baal HaSulam quotes, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and set up my standard to the peoples: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried on their shoulders’” (Isaiah 49:22).

[i] Midrash Rabah, Beresheet (Genesis), Portion 38, Paragraph 6.

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 6

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

Integrally Educated Children

While adults must assume responsibility for changing their social environments positively, the situation is much more complicated when it comes to children and youths. Here it is the responsibility of grownups—teachers and educators—whether through private initiatives or with the government’s support, to build this cohesion-inducing environment.

The current education system endorses unabated competition. In and of itself, competition is natural and not inherently negative. But if we consider today’s competitive culture and what it is doing to us, and even more so to our children, it is clear that we are misusing that trait.

In No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Alfie Kohn, a known dissident of competition, quoted psychologist, Elliot Aronson: “From the Little League ball player who bursts into tears after his team loses, to the college students in the football stadium chanting ‘We’re number one!’; from Lyndon Johnson, whose judgment was almost certainly distorted by his oft-stated desire not to be the first American President to lose a war, to the third grader who despises his classmate for a superior performance on an arithmetic test; we manifest a staggering cultural obsession with victory.”[i]

Indeed, libraries and the internet are rife with studies indicating that competition and individualism are bad, and collaboration and cooperation are good, both at work and at school. Jeffrey Norris published a story in the News Center of UCSF, titled, “Yamanaka’s Nobel Prize Highlights Value of Training and Collaboration.” In that story, Norris asserted, “The lone scientist working late into the night to complete a breakthrough experiment that leads to a Eureka moment of solitary joy is a stock scene from Hollywood movies, but in reality science is a highly social endeavor.”[ii] Later, in the section, “Synergistic Collaboration Drives Progress,” he adds, “In the open layouts of modern scientific laboratory buildings, each principal scientific investigator works with several postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and technicians, and a visitor can’t tell where one lab ends and another begins. Scientific ideas and camaraderie are nurtured in the interactive environment.”[iii]

It is likewise at school. Numerous experiments have already been conducted on the benefits of collaboration in the education system. In an essay called, “An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning,” University of Minnesota professors David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson present the case for the “social interdependence” theory. In their words, “More than 1,200 research studies have been conducted in the past 11 decades on cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts. Findings from these studies have validated, modified, refined, and extended the theory.”[iv]

The authors proceed to detail what these studies had found. The researchers compared the effectiveness of cooperative learning to the commonly used individual, competitive learning. The results were unequivocal. In terms of individual accountability and personal responsibility, they concluded, “The positive interdependence that binds group members together is posited to result in feelings of responsibility for (a) completing one’s share of the work and (b) facilitating the work of other group members. Furthermore, when a person’s performance affects the outcomes of collaborators, the person feels responsible for the collaborators’ welfare as well as for his or her own. Failing oneself is bad, but failing others as well as oneself is worse.”[v] In other words, positive interdependence turns individualistic people into caring and collaborating ones, the complete opposite of the current trend of growing individualism to the point of narcissism.[vi]

Johnson and Johnson distinguish between positive interdependence and negative interdependence. The positive kind entails “…a positive correlation among individuals’ goal attainments; individuals perceive that they can attain their goals if and only if the other individuals with whom they are cooperatively linked attain their goals.”[vii] The negative one means that “individuals perceive that they can obtain their goals if and only if the other individuals with whom they are competitively linked fail to obtain their goals.”[viii]

In order to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration, the researchers measured the achievements of students who collaborated compared to those who competed. In their findings, “The average person cooperating was found to achieve at about two thirds of a standard deviation above the average person performing within a competitive or individualistic situation.”[ix]

To understand the meaning of such deviation above the average, consider that if a child is a D-average student, by cooperating, that student’s grades will leap to an astonishing A+ average. Also, the Johnsons wrote, “Cooperation, when compared with competitive and individualistic efforts, tends to promote greater long-term retention, higher intrinsic motivation, and expectations for success, more creative thinking… and more positive attitudes toward the task and school.”[x] In other words, not only the children benefit from this prosocial attitude, but society as a whole gains leverage.

In early 2012, I coauthored with Professor of Psychology and Gestalt-therapist, Dr. Anatoly Ulianov, a book titled, The Psychology of the Integral Society. The book details the essentials of IE, with specific references to today’s over-competitive society. In essence, the book suggests that since competition is inherent to human nature—as detailed earlier in this book regarding the speaking degree’s aspiration for wealth, power, and fame—we should not inhibit it. Instead, rather than competing to be king (or queen) of the hill, so to speak, we can foster a social atmosphere that endorses competition for the person who contributes most to others.

Specifically, those who should be declared winners are individuals who did the most to make others better. In a sense, it is a competition to be the one who loves others the most. Thus, children’s natural drive to excel—and specifically, to excel over others—is not inhibited, allowing them to actualize their full potential while channeling it toward benefiting society instead of themselves, since the only way to win this type of competition is to be the best at being good. In this way, competition becomes a tool for initiating the quality of bestowal in children.

To foster this healthy atmosphere, peer-to-peer relations and teacher-student relations must reflect these prosocial values. This entails some modifications to the traditional teaching style. The premise in IE is that today’s foremost challenge in education is not transmission of information, but rather inculcating capabilities by which to acquire information quickly and in a manner that best serves students’ varying goals.

This is a shift from the traditional paradigm, which results from the fact that today’s life is very different from the time of the Industrial Revolution, during which the concept of frontal lecturing of information was conceived. In the Information Age, data accumulate so quickly that past experiences can only serve as a basis for further learning. In preparation for today’s adult world, schoolchildren need to learn how to learn more than they need to absorb information.

Additionally, because of the interconnected and interdependent nature of today’s world, from early on children need to comprehend that self-interest alone will not lead to happiness. Rather, as Johnson and Johnson demonstrate, mutual consideration and openness to others will promote their chances of success and happiness more successfully.

But children need to experience the interconnectedness of the world in real life, and not just hear or talk about it. One practical way to achieve this is by transforming the classroom into a microcosm, a mini-environment, a small family where everyone cares for one another.

To that end, IE proposes that students and teachers—or “educators,” as they are referred to in IE—will sit in circles, and the learning will take place through lively discussions on the subject matter. Circles place educator and students on the same level, so the educator can gently guide the discussion toward learning, and even more important, toward mutual understanding without being overbearing or domineering.

Another important issue is the school curriculum. This should reflect the interconnected nature of the world. The curriculum should also support integration of topics. Thus, fields of study such as math, physics, and biology will not be taught separately, but within the context of Nature as a whole, which is how the laws of the three disciplines actually function.

Integration should be inherent in the actual study, and it is quite likely to see students apply laws of biology to their studies in humanities. After all, humanity has already been labeled “a superorganism,” so applying the laws of biology to human society seems a natural evolution.

Also notable is the point that in IE, educators are often not teachers, but older students. This enhances overall cohesion and camaraderie among students of different age groups, develops verbal and pedagogical skills of the young educators, and induces far deeper assimilation of information in the tutors because they have to teach it.

But most of all, when young tutors teach instead of grownup teachers, discipline issues become virtually obsolete. Because younger children naturally look up to children who are older than them by two to three years, instead of resenting the educators, as they often feel toward grownup teachers, they seek their favor and race to be the best student in the tutors’ eyes. Couple that aspiration with the above-mentioned desire to be the best at being good, and you have on your hands a school atmosphere to which children will enjoy coming in the morning, and in which they will grow up to be confident and prosocial adults.

Befitting the purposes of IE, the learning itself will take place in groups, as it is the most advantageous form of study for nurturing social skills and for inculcating information, according to the above studies of Johnson and Johnson. Thus, a student’s evaluation will not relate to his or her ability to memorize and recite in a standardized test. Rather, evaluations will be given to groups, rather than to individuals. This will enhance even further the sense of group responsibility and mutual guarantee among the students.

That said, teachers and educators will regularly send reports to parents and school administrators regarding children’s social and educational progress. Because teachers will be much closer to the students than today’s teaching methods allow, they will see if a problem arises with a child before it deteriorates into a major crisis.

Once a week, students should leave the school building and go on outings. To get to know the world they live in, the education system must provide them with firsthand knowledge of the institutions that affect their lives, the governing authorities, and the history and nature of the places they live in. Such outings should include museums, hikes in nearby parks, visits to agricultural communities, tours in factories, hospitals, and outings to government institutions, police stations, and so forth.

Each of these excursions will require preparation that will equip students with prior knowledge of the place they are about to visit, the role of that place in society, what it contributes, possible alternatives, and the origins of that place or institution.

For example, before an outing to the local police station, the students will research the topic of policing on the internet, if possible with specific information on the station they are about to visit. They will learn how the police came to its current mode of action, how it fits within the fabric of life in our society, and what alternatives to the police we might imagine.

In this way, children learn about the world they live in, develop creative thinking to imagine a more desirable future, practice teamwork, and improve their learning skills. Following the outing, further discussions will enable students to share what they have learned, draw conclusions, make suggestions, and compare what they have found with the notions they held regarding the topic in discussion prior to the outing.

There is much more to say about IE schools, such as regarding parents-school-student relations, approach toward homework, recommended hours at school, holidays, punishment-or-no-punishment policies, etc.. Developing this topic further is beyond the scope of this book, but the idea surrounding IE should be clear: children need to learn in an interconnected environment, and experience firsthand the benefits and fun associated with living in such an environment.

[i] Elliot Aronson, The Social Animal, pp 153-54, quoted in: Alfie Kohn, No Contest: The Case Against Competition (NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986), 2.

[ii] Jeffrey Norris, “Yamanaka’s Nobel Prize Highlights Value of Training and Collaboration,” UCSF News Section (October 11, 2012), url: http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/10/12949/yamanakas-nobel-prize-highlights-value-training-and-collaboration

[iii] ibid.

[iv] David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, “An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning,” Educational Researcher 38 (2009): 365, doi: 10.3102/0013189X09339057

[v] Johnson and Johnson, “Educational Psychology Success Story,” 368

[vi] Books on narcissism in the American society abound. Good examples are: Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (New York: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2009), and Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (USA: Norton & Company, May 17, 1991)

[vii] ibid.

[viii] ibid.

[ix] Johnson and Johnson, “Educational Psychology Success Story,” 371

[x] ibid.

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 5

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

The Keys to Unity

To design a more cohesive society, whose members are responsible for one another, people need to cultivate a few ground rules.

1) Food and other necessities: First and foremost, people must have food security. Without the confidence that they can feed their children and themselves, people will not feel they are integral parts of society because they will constantly be fighting for food (if not physically, then mentally).

Additionally, it is imperative that people have sufficient security concerning medical services, housing, clothing, and education. All the above will vary depending on the average standard of living in each locality, but basic sustenance must be provided for all at a level that preserves their dignity as human beings and as integral members of society.

In return for guaranteeing basic sustenance, all members of society will go through some form of training, which will help them understand the interconnected and interdependent nature of our world—which is why they are receiving these services. They will learn that being in a society that ensures their well-being also entails some duties. These will relate to people’s attitudes toward each other, as well as to their contribution of time or services for the common good.

For instance, making certain that all children receive basic education does not have to cost the state a penny. It can be done through unemployed teachers who voluntarily work in return for basic sustenance. This measure will contribute significantly to the social cohesion of the community, and along with the afore-mentioned training will be perceived as partaking in forming a better world, thus giving people another positive incentive to exert for the community.

2) The training: We have already mentioned the training that will help people understand the interconnected and interdependent nature of our world. The Integral Education social paradigm suggests that every citizen, even every resident of the country will partake in this training.

The training has a twofold purpose—a social one and an economic one. The economic purpose, which is more of a supplementary benefit than an actual goal in and of itself, is to furnish people with the knowledge required to support themselves in times of meager income. That part of the training will include consumer education (personal finance), so people can manage their households in an economically viable manner using limited resources.

The other, more extensive part of the course will include topics pertaining to the perception of oneself as part of a greater whole that shares a common goal. This perception is imperative to the society’s cohesion. Without it, it will be each man for himself, a dog-eat-dog society.

The growing dissonance between this type of society and the aggregative direction of today’s reality will no doubt heighten the already excessive pressure on people’s social functioning, and the result will be society’s meltdown. If that happens, as history proves and as described in the previous chapters, the Jews will be held at fault, the consequences of which are anyone’s guess.

Therefore, below are topics that I believe should be included in the IE training in order to usher people into a more cohesive, and therefore sustainable worldview:

  • Interconnectedness in economy, culture, and society, and what it means to each of us. This topic will detail the evolution of desires and how, at the fourth level, we wish to enjoy wealth, power, and fame, meaning self-centered pleasures, and that these desires drive us to connect, albeit negatively, in order to use one another.
  • Interdependence—why we have become interdependent and how it should affect our relations on the personal, societal, and political levels. This topic should continue the explanation of the evolution of desires and show why our desires to exploit one another make us more dependent on each other. As these desires cause us to engage in ever-tightening relations, while harboring inherently ill intentions toward each other, we are growing increasingly interconnected because we want to use one another. Yet, we are equally interdependent because we are dependent on others for the satisfaction of our wants.
  • Improving social, emotional, and mental capacities:
    • Learning how to cope with joblessness and the resulting financial insufficiency, stress, and depression.
    • Communication skills such as learning how to listen, how to express one’s emotions and needs clearly, to respect one another, and how to read body language. The goal here is to defuse aggression and establish better mutual understanding.
    • Resolving domestic conflicts in a non-violent manner.
    • Socializing as a means of learning, self-enrichment, mitigating tensions, and restoring self-esteem.
  • Media consumption: As stated above, mass media is the most powerful tool in shaping our views and values. For this reason, wise consumption of media can reduce aggressive tendencies, encourage prosocial behavior, and provide essential information and understanding of the world and our place within it. To be sure, the term, “media,” relates not only to the TV and radio, but also to the internet, newspapers, and some forms of pop culture, such as movies and popular music.
  • Time-management skills: Learning to use one’s time for personal enrichment, expansion of social circles, acquiring new or improved professional skills, and nurturing stronger and more solid family ties.
  • Qualifying trainees as trainers for future courses and trainings.

Also, where physical attendance is possible, the training will be given through social activities, simulations, group work, games, and multimedia presentations. The learning will not be in the traditional teacher-class frontal format. Rather, the teacher and students will sit in a circle and converse as equals, thus learning through mutual enrichment and sharing. Where physical attendance is not possible, the educational framework will be largely interactive, with examples and activities designed primarily for eLearning.

The results of such a training should be twofold: 1) understanding how to manage one’s personal life in today’s volatile social environment and economic instability; 2) understanding that there is a natural law galvanizing this unfolding, that that law is as stern and inexorable as gravity, and we must therefore master these new means of coping for our own good.

While we all have to know how to manage ourselves under the Law of Interdependence, imposed on us by the Law of Bestowal, the Creator, it does not mean that everyone will have to study Kabbalah. Those who wish to study may do so, but those who have no desire to attain the Creator will contribute just as much to the “super-organism of humanity,” to use the words of Christakis and Fowler, by simply living out the laws of mutual guarantee without attaining the inner workings of Creation.

Just as you do not need to be a qualified electrician to switch on the light successfully and safely, not everyone must be a Kabbalist, or an “expert in the workings of the Law of Bestowal,” to use a more contemporary phrasing, to successfully and safely apply the Law of Bestowal to their lives. After all, this law exists in order to do good to His creations, as we have learned in Chapter 2. Therefore, all we need to learn is how to use it properly, just as we have learned how to use electricity, gravity, magnetism, and any other natural law or force to our benefit.

That said, just as electricians build the systems that everyone uses safely without any professional knowledge, Kabbalists will have to build the social and learning systems that inculcate the quality of bestowal into society, so everyone may use these systems beneficially, even without any knowledge of Kabbalah.

3) The round table: A means that is of primary importance, and hence merits an item all to itself, is the round table discussion format. In this type of discussion, all participants are of equal status and represent different, often opposing views on subjects that are critical to the well-being and soundness of the community, city, state, or country.

The goal of the deliberation is neither to reconcile differences nor to induce compromise. Rather, the goal is to find a common denominator that stands above the conflicts and disputes. The result of finding such an element is that the topics in dispute suddenly seem far less important than before, and pale in comparison to the unity and warmth the participants now sense toward each other. Subsequently, solutions are easily found for previously persistent conflicts in a spirit of good faith, owing to the newly discovered common interest.

In Israel, several organizations and movements have implemented the round table discussion format. The Arvut (mutual guarantee) movement, for instance, has implemented this means of deliberation hundreds of times, and every time this format was used, it was reported as a major success by the participants themselves. In this manner, issues that had not been resolved for years were resolved in a matter of hours.

So far in Israel, this has been tried in big cities, villages and kibbutzim, in Arab and Druz villages, bringing together the most extreme right wing Judea and Samaria settlers with Arabs from the West Bank, in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), and within struggling populations such as immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. These events ended with a profound sense of unity and warmth 100 percent of the time. For video-recorded testimonials and more details on the round table discussions visit http://www.arvut.org/en/round-table.

Round table discussions have been conducted around the world, as well. New York and San Francisco (USA), Toronto (Canada), Frankfurt and Nuremberg (Germany), Rome (Italy), Barcelona (Spain), St. Petersburg and Perm (Russia), are just some of many places where this form of discussion has been implemented, all enjoying the same resounding success as in Israel.

In the spirit of equality, the actual deliberations also involve the audience, and follow this procedure: A panel of individuals of diverse, often conflicting backgrounds and agendas sit around the main table. The panelists express their views on a topic declared by the host of the event.

Next, the audience asks the panelists questions, to which one or more of them replies. It is an unbreakable rule that panelists must not reproof other panelists or interfere with their words. Personal criticism is also strictly prohibited. This way, the audience hears a variety of views that do not oppose one another, but rather complement one another.

Subsequently, the audience divides into multiple round tables and discusses questions posed by the host in the same manner and spirit demonstrated by the panel. Finally, the tables reconvene into a general assembly and each table presents its conclusions, as well as shares its impressions from the event as a whole.

Recently, even some online round table discussions have been tried, and they, too, were very successful. Naturally, each place has its unique mentality, and each vehicle—a live event, an online meeting, or a TV broadcast—has its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, no two events are the same. Yet, the spirit of camaraderie and the commitment to mutual guarantee that stand at the basis of every such discussion ensure the success of these unique deliberations. Although the vast majority of societies is still a long way from living out the concepts of mutual guarantee, these discussions, as the video recordings demonstrate, manage to induce a genuine sense of what living in mutual guarantee will feel like.

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 4

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

Prosocial Media

In The Writings of Baal HaSulam, Ashlag asserts, “The greatest of all imaginable pleasures is to be favored by people. It is worthwhile to spend all of one’s energy and corporeal pleasures to obtain a certain amount of that delightful thing. This is the magnet that has lured the greatest in all the generations, and for which they trivialized the life of the flesh.”[i]

Therefore, to alter our social behavior, we must change our social environment from one that promotes individuality to one that promotes mutuality. Practically speaking, we can use the media to show how group work yields better results than individual work, and how competition is detrimental to one’s happiness and health. Once we realize that there is a greater reward in cooperative conduct than in individualism, it will be easy to collaborate and to share.

In their insightful book, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization, authors Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith describe a success story that is worth mentioning in the context of the advantages of teamwork. Burlington Northern Railroad was a successful freight company, and is currently part of a big corporation owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is controlled by investor Warren Buffett. In 1981, Burlington Northern Railroad was revolutionized by seven men—Bill Greenwood, Mark Cane, Emmett Brady, Ken Hoepner, Dave Burns, Bill Dewitt, and Bill Berry—who used the U.S. deregulation of the railroad industry to speed up the delivery of freight and minimize the cost of delivery. This is how Katzenbach and Smith describe the spirit with which they carried out that revolution: “All real teams share a commitment to their common purpose. But only exceptional team members … also become deeply dedicated to each other. The seven men developed a concern and commitment for one another as deep as their dedication to the vision they were trying to accomplish. They looked out for each other’s welfare, supported each other whenever and however needed, and constantly worked with each other to get done whatever had to get done.”[ii]

Such a story could be a powerful advocate for the case in favor of unity over competition. The only problem is that in our ultra-competitive world, even unity is used to gain personal leverage for the group that is practicing it (or should we say, perpetrating it, due to its misuse). In today’s interconnected and interdependent world, this kind of unity is unsustainable.

In our self-centered society, unity will last just as long as it is lucrative for the individuals involved. In the previous chapter, in the section, “From Me, to We, to One,” we described the ill effects of competition. At the same time, we acknowledged that “with our current knowledge of human nature, we cannot avoid this competitive and alienating attitude because it is coming from within us, a dictation of the fourth, speaking level of desire, and we cannot stop the evolution of desires.”

However, we have already said that we need not impede our evolution, only shift it toward a constructive direction for all. The most instrumental means to achieve this is through mass media. If we develop prosocial media content and bombard ourselves with it as much as we currently bombard ourselves with commercials and infomercials that aim to deplete our bank accounts, we will find ourselves living in a very different society than our current one.

People’s contemporary domestic environments contain a great deal of media entertainment, either through the TV or via the internet. A publication by the U.S. Department of Education titled, “Media Guide—Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence,” stated, “It’s hard to understand the world of early adolescents without considering the huge impact of the mass media on their lives. It competes with families, friends, schools, and communities in its ability to shape young teens’ interests, attitudes, and values.”[iii] Regrettably, the majority of interests that the media shapes is antisocial.

For example, an online publication by the University of Michigan Health System states that “Literally thousands of studies since the 1950s have asked whether there is a link between exposure to media violence and violent behavior. All but 18 have answered, ‘Yes.’ …According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), ‘Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.’”[iv]

To understand how much violence young minds absorb, consider this piece of information from the above publication: “An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.”[v] If this number does not seem alarming, consider that there are 6,570 days in eighteen years. This means that on average, by age eighteen a child will have been exposed to slightly more than thirty acts of violence on TV, 2.4 of which are murders, every single day of his or her young life.

On the same note, in their book, Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach, published in 2008, Barbara M. Newman, PhD, and Philip R. Newman describe how “Exposure to many hours of televised violence increases young children’s repertoire of violent behavior and increases the prevalence of angry feelings, thoughts, and actions. These children are caught up in the violent fantasy, taking part in the televised situation while they watch.”[vi] If we remember the mirror-neurons, and consider how much we, and especially children, learn by imitation, we can only imagine what irreversible harm watching violence causes them, and we are already feeling the effects of this ill-education.

Therefore, developing media that is prosocial and pro-mutual responsibility is imperative to our survival as a livable society. It must play a key role in shifting the public atmosphere from alienation to camaraderie. The media provides us with almost everything we know about our world. Even the information we receive from friends and from family usually arrives via the media—the modern version of the grapevine.

But the media does not simply provide us with information. It also offers us tidbits about people we approve or disapprove of, and we form our views based on what we see, hear, or read in the media. Because its power over the public is unrivaled, if the media shifts toward togetherness and unity, it will also shift the worldview of most people toward these values.

Currently, the media focuses on successful individuals, media moguls, mega pop stars, and ultra-successful individuals who made billions on the backs of their competitors. In times of crises, such as after Hurricane Sandy, or during floods, people unite in order to help one another. At such times these stories, which the media airs abundantly, help raise our morale and give us hope that the human spirit is not all bad. Alas, as soon as the next news item comes along, the media chases after that story and disappears, taking with it the belief in the human spirit. Instead, sensations of suspicion and alienation repossess prime time.

To install a lasting and fundamental change in our worldview, to make us desire the quality of bestowal, the media should present the full picture of reality, and inform us of its interconnected and interdependent structure. To this end, it should produce programs that demonstrate how that quality affects all levels of Nature—inanimate, vegetative, animate, and speaking—and encourage people to emulate it in order to equalize our society with Nature’s traits of giving, mutuality, and homeostasis. Instead of talk shows that idolize people who succeeded, these shows should praise people who helped others succeed.

If the media shows people caring for each other and puts them on a pedestal primarily because their deeds coincide with the law of Nature, the Law of Bestowal, it will gradually shift the public’s favor from self-centeredness to camaraderie. People will begin to feel that there is personal gain in being unselfish, possibly much more than the gain there is in selfishness, if there is any gain in it at all.

Today, the predominant message that the media should portray is, “Unity is fun, and it’s also good for you; join in!” There are ample ways the media can show us that unity is a gift.

Although every scientist knows that no system in Nature operates in isolation, and that interdependence is the name of the game, most of us are unaware of it. When we see how every physical organ works to benefit the whole body, how bees collaborate in hives, how a school of fish swims in such unison that it can be mistaken for a single giant fish, and how chimpanzees help other chimps, or even humans, without any reward in return, we will know that Nature’s primary law is that of harmony and coexistence.

The media can and should show us such examples far more often than it does. When we realize that this is how Nature works, we will spontaneously examine our societies and strive to emulate that harmony among us. If our thoughts begin to shift in this direction, they will create a different atmosphere and introduce a spirit of hope and strength into our lives, even before we actually implement that spirit, since we will be aligned with Nature’s life force—the Creator.

Because, as just stated, our greatest pleasure is to win people’s favor, if others approve of our actions and views we feel good about ourselves. If they disapprove of what we do or say, we feel bad about ourselves and tend to hide our actions or modify them to suit the social norm. In other words, because it is so important for us to feel good about ourselves, the media is in a unique position to shift people’s actions and views.

Not surprisingly, politicians are the most ratings-dependent people in society, as their careers and very livelihood depend on their popularity. If we show them that we have changed our values, they will change theirs to follow our lead. And one of the easiest, most effective ways to tell them what we value is to show them what we want to watch on TV! If we give high ratings to shows that promote unity and camaraderie, politicians will tap into that spirit and legislate accordingly. Because politicians want to stay in office, we need to show them that, to retain their positions, they must promote what we want them to promote—unity.

When we are able to create media that promotes unity and collaboration instead of the self-glorification of celebrities, we will create an environment that persuades us that unity and mutual responsibility are good.

[i] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, 44.

[ii] Jon R Katzenbach & Douglas K Smith, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization (US: Harvard Business School Press, January 1, 1992), 37-38.

[iii] U.S. Department of Education, “Media Guide—Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence,” http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/adolescence/index.html

[iv] University of Michigan Health System, “Television and Children,” http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm

[v] ibid.

[vi] Barbara M. Newman and Philip R. Newman, Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2008), 250

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 3

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

Adult School: A Guide for the Perplexed

Besides the speaking, human level of Nature, all the other levels—still, vegetative, and animate—operate in mutual guarantee. Homeostasis, as defined in Webster’s Dictionary, perfectly matches the description of mutual guarantee on the levels below that of the speaking: “A relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population, or group.”[i]

Our current, predominantly capitalistic society shuns equilibrium, mocks the tendency toward it, and dreads interdependence. In fact, we endorse and campaign for the opposite. We praise individual achievements in sports, business, politics, and the academia, and we idolize those at the top. We overlook those who contribute to the well-being of the collective and cherish individualism and independence.

But a society that functions in this manner cannot last very long. Think of our human bodies. If our bodies conducted themselves by the values that dominate our society, we would not make it past the initial cell-differentiation in the embryonic stage. As soon as cells would begin to form different organs, they would start fighting each other for resources and the embryo would disintegrate. Life would not be possible if any part of it embraced the individualistic values just described. It is because life, meaning Nature, adheres to the rules of homeostasis that we can develop and sustain ourselves, and have evolved to the point where we can ponder the nature and purpose of our existence.

Indeed, not only organisms, but our entire planetary ecosystem, even the cosmos, are in a state of homeostasis. When the balance breaks down, troubles soon ensue. An eye-opening and rather amusing report submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in October, 2003 by Irene Sanders and Judith McCabe clearly demonstrates what happens when we tilt an ecosystem off its homeostatic state. “In 1991, an orca—a killer whale—was seen eating a sea otter. Orcas and otters usually coexist peacefully. So, what happened? Ecologists found that ocean perch and herring were also declining. Orcas don’t eat those fish, but seals and sea lions do. And seals and sea lions are what orcas usually eat, and their population had also declined. So deprived of their seals and sea lions, orcas started turning to the playful sea otters for dinner.

“So otters have vanished because the fish, which they never ate in the first place, have vanished. Now, the ripple spreads. Otters are no longer there to eat sea urchins, so the sea urchin population has exploded. But sea urchins live off seafloor kelp forests, so they’re killing off the kelp. Kelp has been home to fish that feed seagulls and eagles. Like orcas, seagulls can find other food, but bald eagles can’t and they’re in trouble.

“All this began with the decline of ocean perch and herring. Why? Well, Japanese whalers have been killing off the variety of whales that eat the same microscopic organisms that feed pollock [a type of carnivorous fish]. With more fish to eat, pollock flourish. They in turn attack the perch and herring that were food for the seals and sea lions. With the decline in the population of sea lions and seals, the orcas must turn to otters.”[ii]

Think of the way we behave toward each other. We are competitive, alienated, isolated from each other, and aspire to excel over others. Keep in mind that this is not the exception, but the norm, the values we all teach our children as the “right” way to be. This is why an adult school, a guide for the perplexed adult, is necessary.

The way in which this school will operate should vary from place to place and from country to country. Each nation and country has its own mentality and culture, a different level of technological advancement and means of communication, and traditions by which people learn. For this reason, each country, sometimes each city will have to develop its own method of instruction. However, the fundamental content, the principles that all these adult education systems will teach must be the same. Otherwise the result will be disparity in the population’s commitment to mutual responsibility and the understanding of its importance to our lives.

Let’s examine some of the fundamental principles that education toward mutual guarantee should instill.

[i] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homeostasis

[ii] T. Irene Sanders and Judith McCabe, PhD, The Use of Complexity Science: a Survey of Federal Departments and Agencies, Private Foundations, Universities, and Independent Education and Research Centers, October 2003, Washington Center for Complexity & Public Policy, Washington, DC. url: www.hcs.ucla.edu/DoEreport.pdf

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 2

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

The “Point-in-the-Heart” Way

For some of us, the way to come by unity is relatively simple. We have already mentioned the “point in the heart,” that thirst to understand what life is about, what makes the world go around, the yearning that enabled Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the entire nation that arose out of the pariahs from Babylon to develop a correction method that turns the evil inclination into goodness. Those who have that point can start studying the texts that Kabbalists have left for us as a means to attain the Creator, the quality of bestowal. Along the way they will learn how to unite on a profound level and will be ready to pass that unity on to others.

In our generation, the most instrumental texts for achieving those purposes are Baal HaSulam’s The Book of Zohar with the Sulam (Ladder) commentary, the writings of the ARI, preferably with Baal HaSulam’s commentaries, published in his Talmud Esser HaSephirot (The Study of the Ten Sephirot), as well as Baal HaSulam’s other writings, published in The Writings of Baal HaSulam. To make these, and other texts more accessible, we have established a free online library of authentic Kabbalistic texts, translated into dozens of languages.

In the original Hebrew, they can be found at www.kab.co.il, and translations of much of the texts—including even a version of The Book of Zohar, titled, Zohar for All, which consolidates the text of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) with the commentary of Baal HaSulam—exist in English as well at www.kabbalah.info, for no cost or preconditions whatsoever.

Also available at the above-mentioned web addresses are the writings of my teacher, Rav Baruch Shalom Ashlag (the Rabash), Baal HaSulam’s firstborn son, and successor. Although fewer of his writings have been translated into English, all of his essays that teach students how to promote unity in student groups have been published in English in the book, The Social Writings of Rabash. For those who prefer hard copies of the texts, all of the above publications exist in print, and can be purchased at www.kabbalahbooks.info or on amazon.com and other online outlets.

Additionally, veteran students have established an Education Center that teaches the basics of Kabbalah and how to implement it so it becomes part of one’s daily life, complementing one’s personal growth toward obtaining one’s goals in life. For more advanced students, I teach a daily three-hour lesson broadcast live on www.kab.tv, with simultaneous interpretations into all major languages—English, Spanish, French, Russian, German, and others. In these lessons, I strive to advance students as quickly and as easily as possible while adhering to the modes of teaching I received from my venerated teacher, the Rabash.

In the last couple of years, we have also been airing shows on US TV channels such as JLTV and Shalom TV, primarily on weekends. Naturally, these shows are not “hardcore” Kabbalah studies, but they are certainly a great reference for anyone who wishes to “wet one’s feet” and see what this study is all about.

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 1

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

In the previous chapter, we quoted Baal HaSulam’s words from his essay, “The Freedom,” stating that we are “compelled to think and examine as they [social environment] suggest,” and we are “denied of any strength to criticize or change.”[i] Baal HaSulam concluded that to avoid a predetermined fate, we can change the environment, which will in turn change us and our fates. In his words, “One who strives to continually choose a better environment is worthy of praise and reward … not because of one’s good thoughts and deeds …but because of one’s efforts to acquire a good environment, which brings … good thoughts.”[ii]

To put it in a more contemporary context, in order to channel our lives and the lives of our children in a positive direction, we need to foster social values that promote the positive direction we wish to instill. We need to educate ourselves, our children, and society at large toward mutual guarantee, mutual responsibility, and eventually toward unity and cohesion. As has been demonstrated throughout the book, it is our vocation as Jews.

We need not conceive any new means of education to achieve this goal. All we need is to shift the means we already use—mass media, the internet, the education system, and our social and familial ties—toward promoting kinship and mutual responsibility, instead of the prevailing narrative of separation and alienation.

Although more often than not, the traits of unity and kinship—and most of all, of mutual responsibility—are dormant within us Jews, it is our duty, indeed our vocation to awaken them and offer them as our gift to the world. As has been shown repeatedly in this book, unity is the gift of the Jews, the quality that makes us unique, and the quality we must bestow upon the rest of the world. It is this quality that the world needs today, and it is we who are obliged to nurture it within, and then hand it over to the world.

There are two ways to convey mutual guarantee and the quality of bestowal. The first, intended for those with “points in the heart,” as mentioned earlier in the book, is a straightforward study of Kabbalah. According to one’s level of interest, it can be done at varying levels of intensity, from watching TV shows to studying intently (and intensely) with a group and a teacher. The other way is a method of unity-oriented education intended to induce cohesion and a sense of mutual responsibility within the society. I will elaborate on these ways one at a time.

[i] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom,” 419.

[ii] ibid.