Passover: Steve Jobs and Passover

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iPad Mania and the Parting Sea

The lead story dominating today’s news is the launch of Apple’s iPad – Steve Jobs latest innovative tool, lauded as a “magical and revolutionary product” that will forever change the way we do things.

It seems just too irresistible not to compare this to another breakthrough event, which dominated the news of the day, several – just a mere 3322 – years ago: The Exodus from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.

Back then history was being made by Moses leading the people out of exile and against impossible odds marching through a seemingly impenetrable sea. Today, the lead characters are people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Bill Gates and others, and technology is the modern day miracle, emancipating us (supposedly) from our material time/space shackles.

My, how things have changed. What a difference a few years can make…

With one “small” caveat, of course. Today’s marvels are not necessarily related (and some may argue, in opposition) to spiritual and moral progress; our current gadgets may dazzle the eye, engage the mind and consume our psyches, but they ultimately only advance our existing standards. As the saying goes: “Junk in, junk out.” All the modern technologies combined, on their own, will not make us love better, build healthier relationships and families, bring peace to the world or eradicate famine and injustice. As far as their creators go – they may be wonderful people, helping improve the way we run our lives – but when it comes down to it, financial incentive is what drives the engine. Not to suggest that inventor today may not be doing it for a noble cause, but nobility is not inherent to the process.

Whereas, in strong contrast, the miracles back then blazed a new trail in human freedom; it initiated a spiritual revolution, creating a new standard of virtue and morals that would change the course of history; it opened up the door of possibility – that nothing is truly impossible (even an awesome sea can be parted).

You can say that Exodus and the parting sea were the harbingers of many of the fundamental breakthroughs that have become pillars of our civilization today. It’s a fascinating exercise to wonder about: Without these Biblical events, which led to Sinai, without which none of the major (Western) religions would have been spawned, would we have democracy today? What would our values look like?

And even though it may a be stretch to say that the scientific innovations of our time were a direct outgrowth of the miracles at the Red Sea, it would not be at all difficult to argue that our human imagination – the ability to think unconventionally; to dream and innovate; to invest and develop “out of the box” ideas – is sparked by the miracles of the past and by people who did not give up even under impossible circumstances.

Even if one were skeptical about the actual miracles, can anyone deny that just hearing about them instills in all of us the possibility – just the possibility – that we can defy the “natural” routine of things and conceive of new possibilities, and even believe that sometimes the impossible may just be possible?

Is it not a measure of faith – and even a tinge of insanity – that compelled certain innovators to observe a bird in flight and imagine that we too can learn to fly, and indeed developed the technology and engineering of air flight? Or a doctor, despite all the detractors, doggedly insisted on finding a cure to an otherwise incurable disease? Or a devoted mother, ignoring the advice of experts, not giving up on her autistic child?

The Biblical Exodus and its subsequent events etched into our consciousness, if nothing else, the indefatigable spirit of man. It declared and demonstrated, and thus heralded in a new awareness, that with faith and commitment, with a connection to the Divine, we can achieve anything, even the unfathomable.

So then the question begs: In comparing the miracles of old and the miracles of today, where have we strayed? Why is innovation today only around material objects (as “sublime” as they may be) and not around soulful ventures? Where today are the spiritual Steve Jobs’ pioneering paths to deeper consciousness and higher awareness? Even if some exist, why do they not dominate the headlines?

Is it only because iPods, iPhones and now iPads can generate huge sums of money? Are we to believe that tools to find personal happiness and spiritual growth are not money-making enterprises (or that those involved in that line of work are not driven by profit, or they get tainted once their palettes taste the sweetness of money)?

Not much is known about the deeper significance of the Parting of the Sea. But those familiar with its mystical interpretation know that it carries profound messages and lessons, that can impact not only our personal lives, but surprisingly also our ability to develop new technologies. In effect, bridging the miracles of technology with the miracles of the soul. Wouldn’t it be something if Steve Jobs were to learn about these parallels?

Here is a brief overview of the parting sea’s spiritual relevance: Land and sea represent two realities – two forms of consciousness: The “revealed worlds” of dry land are our conscious experiences. The “hidden worlds” of the sea are our unconscious experiences. In truth these two states are one seamless whole. Thus, in the beginning of time all Earth was submerged in water, as each of us (the universe in microcosm) begins our life submerged in the embryonic fluids of our mothers’ wombs. Then, a parting took place – a parting that divided separated between “land” consciousness and water consciousness. The boundaries between land and sea were set in place.

This division is actually only from our perspective. If you think about it, all land on Earth is actually an island jutting out of water. 75% of the globe is covered with water, leaving 25% uncovered. The same is true of the microcosm: Two thirds of the body is made up of water. Our conscious minds are just a “tip of the iceberg” (no pun intended) jutting out of our unconscious.

Yet a deep separation between land and water define our reality. We cannot see behind the curtain dividing our conscious and unconscious. But this separation is not airtight. At the outset of creation, when G-d separated between land and sea, He did so on the condition that the sea would always remember that it would one day part and allow man to walk through its depths as we walk on land.

The parting of the sea – in which “water was transformed into land” (Hofach yom l’yabosho) – was a one-time in history demonstration of the naked truth: That sea and land are two dimensions of one reality. The window opened up at that point, as a preparation to Sinai when the rift was bridged between spirit and matter. Until Sinai a decree dictated a “line in the sand,” which stated, “that which is above shall not come below, and that which is below shall not ascend above.”

This is also the reason that the people sang praise following the parting of the sea: Song is the language of the sea. Conventional speech (“land language”) consists of staccato-like fragments of disconnected words, separated by spaces and breaths, combining together to express an idea. Melody flows like water in one seamless stream.

The parting of the sea – an integral part of the sea’ nature from its inception – paved the way so that today we have the power to sing, the power to unite what is above and what is below, in one harmonious flow.

Now imagine this: Imagine that headlines today would be screaming not just about iPads but about unprecedented breakthroughs and insights into our souls. Imagine people being excited about discovering new dimensions of their psyches, new reservoirs of strength (to counter their fears and insecurities) – as excited as they are when they procure a new iPhone. Imagine a world enamored by exploring the deeper possibilities in our relationships and loves, by finding inner contentment – as enamored as we are by the newest gadgets coming our way.

This, in a nutshell, is the challenge of our times: To rediscover the electricity of spirituality, and integrate it with the sensations of our modern innovations.

The iPad mania reflects the design and marketing genius of Steve Jobs and his gifted team. But it also reveals the gaping vacuum in our lack of spiritual visionaries.

Who will rise today as a spiritual Steve Jobs, ready to pioneer a new spiritual path?

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PKorman
11 years ago

Dear Rabbi:

When spiritual breakthroughs occur, we will probably learn of them as the information is distributed across the world-wide information network. The speed of discovery and distribution may occur in days or weeks, instead of centuries. As it is, I study with your nephew in his Chaba north of Atlanta and also learn from your essays, which I discovered while browsing relevant material. The tools that foster this distribution of ideas are important to widespread spiritual discovery, even if they were created for more mercenary purposes. Greed in its purest form, is probably not a social good…but, respectfully, the outputs can be very useful in the overall mission of self and societal improvement.

Chanoch Brown
11 years ago

Rv. Jacobson, The brilliance of your insights are wonderfull to perceive. The SOURCE provides inspiration for ALL. The ego of the receiver of the technology takes credit for the gift which we know comes from G.
Chag samaiach, Shalom

Rae man
11 years ago

well…were there more spiritual leaders like U, then there might be more soul in the sole, helping to guide the footsteps iyH deeper and farther alonG our Paths on this living planet. & Counting up from Chesed into Gvule…. RhM

Barbara
11 years ago

YOU ARE…THANK YOU <3

David Rubel
11 years ago

Rabbi:
Your message sounds honest…I think people have become disillusioned with religious leaders because many (if not most) are completely dishonest…they preach love and spirituality and God but in the end you find theyre only interested in lining their own pockets…so then were left without anything to believe in and so we follow whoever happens to be the phony leader of the moment… a phony leader who is honest about his intentions is more desirable than a dishonest leader who lies and cons to achieve his intentions…maybe thats why we go hog-wild for ipods and ipads and all these other things that we really dont need