A mentsch tracht un G-t lacht – old Yiddish saying
(Loose translation: Man plans, G-d laughs)
Did you ever make a plan
that totally didn’t work out as you thought it would? Did you ever host an
event and felt that you had all the bases covered only to discover that you
How did you react to your
plan being thwarted? How did you feel when you realized that you’re not in
Last night I had an embarrassing
experience that I would sooner forget were it not for the fact that many others
shared the same experience with me. So, instead of escaping into denial, I
will face it head on with complete accountability.
Let me put it this way.
I planned one thing and G-d had other plans. We planned an evening called
Quantum Chanukah, to probe the quantum mysteries of waves and particles, the
paradoxical properties of light and energy -- all part of our five part series
The Sound of Light. Instead, we went off on an entire different journey.
So what does one do when things
don’t go according to your plan, and one that you promised to many others?
Initially, I attempted to put things back on course without being disrespectful.
Try as I did I was unsuccessful. Frustration then turned into fury. Finally,
I decided to just lean back and let go. I took a deep breath, smiled inside
and allowed destiny take its course.
What I heard was a distinguished
professor, a Jew, humbly sharing his personal life story. Professor Branover
shared with us how he traveled from absolute atheism to absolute faith; from
being a member of the Communist youth party to becoming a full-fledged Chabad
Chassid. He described the horrors of growing up under Stalin who killed over
40 million of his own people; the relentless war that the Soviet Union fought
against Jews. Being completely assimilated, the professor had no idea why
he was being targeted as a Jew, though he had reached great heights as a scientist.
Finally, what touched him
most was when he saw Jews, Chassidim, going on with their lives, caring for
their families and friends, helping those in need, building underground Jewish
networks, relentlessly living Jewish lives with complete disregard of the
enemy surrounding them. “Insane, irrational,” he thought, “these Chassidic
Jews were living in a reality that was completely different than their surroundings!”
A handful of Jews who would not go down, and were determined to fight the
great Soviet regime.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn,
when he was arrested by the Communists in 1927, refused to cooperate with
the authorities. They threatened the Rebbe and then proceeded to beat him.
One of his Communist captors was a Jew, who told the Rebbe in Yiddish: “Mir
velen aych oislernen,” “we will teach you [who is boss].” The Rebbe replied:
“Mir velen zehn ver vemen,” “we will see who [will teach] whom.”
Prof. Branover shared the
deep pride that he and the other Russian Jews felt in realizing that they
were fighting a meaningful war – a terrible war, but one that they were convinced
they would win. They were making history – they were standing at the front,
and every move they mad was infused with profound confidence that we will
ultimately show you who will win in the end.
And then things began easing
up in the former Soviet Union. Finally, after over 70 years of the most oppressive
rule, the Soviet Union crumbled, and today – 77 years later – the Rebbe’s
words “mir velen zehn ver vemen” were fulfilled…
Prof. Branover stood for
over two hours sharing with us a different, higher reality. One that can only
be seen through the lens of oppression, when your innermost beliefs are challenged
and must therefore become crystallized.
As I listened to him I realized
that this was his quantum state of consciousness – now just as it was back
when he was struggling in the former Soviet Union.
Completely not according
to plan. The topic was meant to be about quantum mechanics, light, physics
and mysticism. We were supposed to discuss “waves and particles and beyond.”
Instead we only heard about the beyond.
And then it dawned upon
me that though the words never came out, this was indeed about waves and particles,
just in a different language – the language called emotions and personal experience.
The physicists tell us that
light behaves both like a wave and a particle. Once someone observes the light,
then the light takes on one of the two properties. So we observers actually
change the course of events happening around us.
The Russian Jews were changing
the course of history with every breath they took, with every step they made.
Yes, it’s true many of us
are intrigued by the dual properties of light, their psychological parallels
and practical applications. But there were people before us that did not have
the luxury to analyze, discuss, debate these issues and then go.. to sleep.
They were changing particles into waves and waves into particles just by living
their daily lives.
The Chassidic masters tell
us that the wave and particle properties in light are about integrating matter
and spirit, the details and the big picture (see The
Physics of Light and Chanukah
Lite). Fascinating indeed. Yet, there were those before us that fused
waves and particles with their simple actions and profound faith.
Perhaps, I thought to myself,
someone that has actually experienced with his blood and tears the transition
between wave and particle cannot really find the words to talk about it.
So, on one hand I am still
second guessing myself, and feel indebted to deliver what we promised to the
people who attended: A discussion on quantum waves and particles. But on the
other hand, perhaps we delivered much more than was expected: A living model
of the quantum experience, a place far beyond waves and particles, which has
the power to turn a wave into a particle and a particle a wave.
Personally I learned something
about making plans. Sometimes you think you're looking for one thing, and
when you let go, you actually discover something more important.
Fiascos, waves, particles,
tension, resolution, rotzo, shuv, quarks, leptons, chaos, order – “sounds
like one big fiasco to me,” as someone told me. So, next time things don’t
work out as planned, remember: Life is complex. The deeper you dig, the more
complex it gets. But deep beneath/beyond it all – if you dig deep enough,
or perhaps, if you stop digging at all and just let go – the deepest truth
that emerges is the most complex thing of all: simple innocence.
Sometimes you start out
looking for a specific particle and instead you end up with a wave.