A Century in Perspective
So much has been written about the Titanic, whose centennial we mark this week, that one would think that nothing more can be said. Yet, there is a critical component to the story – that lays hidden beneath the surface just like and just as long as the Titanic itself – which reveals the mystery of why our fascination with the Titanic remains unsinkable.
In this essay, A Tale of Two Titanics, we discover that while the ship called Titanic remains buried in its watery grave since its sinking a century ago, the second Titanic is just beginning to rise, ready to soar ever higher.
The Unsinkable Memory
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic. On a dark Sunday night, April 15, 1912 at 2:20AM, the most luxurious ocean liner of its time, considered by some to be unsinkable, succumbed to the icy North Atlantic waters. An estimated 1514 of the 2224 people on board perished that silent night, leaving only 710 survivors (the exact numbers are unknown).
The Titanic disaster has gripped the imagination of generations for the past century. And now again, as the centennial is honored and remembered with an eruption of books, articles, films, specials, museum exhibits, ocean cruises and commemorations. Filmed expeditions to the location where the Titanic sunk, and the images captured there, intrigue millions. Every smallest detail about the ship and the events of that fateful night continue to be analyzed and mesmerize vast audiences. A century after the ship hit an iceberg, and three years after the death of the last Titanic survivor, the disaster feels as familiar as if it happened yesterday.
Of all disasters why does this one still fascinate us so 100 years later?
Drama is created by collisions. Yet, many collisions in history have not lived on with the allure of the Titanic. Drama is also created by the unexpected, by the unbelievable. Yet, for some reason the story of the Titanic, more than many other astonishing events, has become embedded in our consciousness – and our memory of it has become as huge and flamboyant as the great ship that lies in ragged ruin at the bottom of the Atlantic. The story has defied the rules of history, brightening rather than fading with time.
We are obsessed with the Titanic, and now obsessed with why we are obsessed.
Many theories have been posited for our obsession. See Daniel Mendelsohn’s excellent article, Indestructible: Why We Can’t Let Go of the Titanic, in this week’s New Yorker.
Is it because of the mystique of the sea; the enigma of our close but mysterious neighbor – the ocean depths – hiding in its womb secrets of the ages?
Is it the sheer power of nature humbling man – the massive sea swallowing up the largest man-made object on earth?
Is it the collision of man attempting to conquer nature, intruding on the seas domain, and nature responding with a vengeance, consuming in less than 3 hours a 46,000 ton ship, which took 3000 men to build in two years, together with all the uniqueness, excessive pride and grandeur of the Titanic and the mystique of its lost era?!
Is it the collision of luxury and disaster – the most unlikely scenario of the largest and most luxurious ship, with some of the most famous millionaires and aristocrats of the time, foundering on its maiden voyage?
Is it the guessing game, what could have been, what would have been, if they only…?
Is it the story of haves and have-nots, of money and class, with the passengers representing a stratified society in miniature – first, second and third class on the top, middle and lower decks – distinctions that would have profound consequences in survival rates (about 60% of the first-class passengers survived)?
Is it the story of human hubris and arrogance, and its tragic consequences?
Is it the confluence of all these factors – which capture in microcosm, better than any work of fiction, the drama of our lives?
Even if Titanic wasn’t unsinkable, fascination with it seems to be. Why?
Perhaps we can gain a new perspective on our fascination with Titanic by exploring another far less known centennial.
The Untold Story
While the world commemorates the Titanic’s centennial, we are approaching another centennial of a far less known Titanic – but one with even greater implications – honoring a century of an event that began just weeks following the Titanic’s descent beneath the waves.
Even more fascinating is the fact that this second centennial can shed vital new light on the story of the first Titanic centennial and our fascination with its tale.
On May 22, 1912 (6 Sivan 5672), a little more than a month after the sinking of the Titanic (on April 15, 2012, 28 Nissan 5672), in a small town in Russian (what is today Belarus), a Rebbe began delivering what would become the longest, deepest and most magnificent mystical discourse in all of modern history (if not all of history) – the Titanic of all mysticism (Kabbalah and Chassidus).
The discourse is known as Hemshech Tov Reish Ayin Beis or Te’erav (literally: series 5672, for the year 5672 when the discourse began), or Hemshech Ayin Beis for short. Ayin Beis – whose centennial we now celebrate – is titanic indeed: The series, written and delivered over an extended period of close to eight years, consists of 144 (!) discourses, and an entire section that was only written and never delivered in public – a total of around 770,000 words on 1500 pages.
Ayin Beis was actually conceived by the Rebbe Rashab months earlier, while the Titanic was still being built.
These discourses were so dense and complex that for years they were never published. The good news, however, is that ultimately they were published (in 1977) from their original manuscripts and we have them available today to study and analyze.
What connection, you may be wondering, is there between these two titanic events, both happening within six weeks of each other 100 years ago?
Is the convergence of these two Titanic’s a coincidence?
But to appreciate the tale of the Two Titanics – and the significance of Ayin Beis – we need to place the Titanic in context of the mindset of the early 20th century, when the great ship was built, and then sailed on its fateful – and only – journey.
Every generation, every era, has its unique opportunities and challenges. Usually, people living in their respective time cannot perceive the forest for the trees; standing on the ground level they simply see their daily lives playing out. It takes a visionary to have a birds-eye view, to see how the events of the time are but a frame in a larger unfolding picture; a piece of a larger puzzle; seeds of a developing drama, which will manifest in time.
1912 was no different. It was a pivotal point in time, which presented tremendous challenges.
As a true visionary, the Rebbe Rashab had a birds eye view of his generation, and anticipated the challenges that lie ahead, and then presented a plan how to prepare for these new changes, preempt their liabilities and build a greater future. To understand the value and magnitude of Ayin Beis we must go back in history and intimately explore the events of the time when this magnum opus was composed – something we can do far easier today with the hindsight of retrospect (than 100 years ago when Ayin Beis first emerged).
A New World
1912 was a watershed moment in history. It was a transition stage between an old world order and a new one. The stirrings of revolution were shaking Czarist Russia; Europe would very soon be thrust into its bloodiest war; and if that were not enough – an even bloodier war would follow the first one.
The Industrial Revolution had reached its peak, introducing to the world major revolutionary changes – from the steam engine to electricity, from mass production to unprecedented economic prosperity never before seen on earth. Science, technology and progress were on the march – having vanquished (in many minds) the primitive views of religion that had controlled minds and souls for centuries. Freedom and democracy flourished, human rights respected, replacing the old despotic models of monarchs, dictators and autocrats ruling with absolute authority, in total disregard to individual rights.
With all these new luxuries, the mood in 1912 was like that of children in a candy shop, tasting for the first time new delights, freedoms, technologies, taking these gifts for granted and becoming overconfident and over presumptuous.
One could only imagine the supreme confidence overflowing the hearts and minds of the Western World in the year 1912. Utopia itself was on the horizon.
With this backdrop, in this euphoric mood and bullish environment, Titanic was built – the largest and most luxurious man-made object on earth at the time.
To get a sense of the Titanic’s lavishness, consider the sheer magnitude of the ship and its cargo:
Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship afloat. She was designed to be the last word in comfort and luxury. No expense had been spared in her construction. She boasted opulent state rooms, luxurious dining rooms, sumptuous smoking rooms with ornate ceilings and magnificent candelabra, and an elegant grand staircase. She had elevators, libraries, a swimming pool, a Turkish bath, a gymnasium, a squash court, even an eight-piece orchestra—everything to satiate the desires of 325 first-class passengers as well as all the rest. She also had a powerful wireless telegraph provided for the convenience of passengers as well as for operational use. She was at the leading edge of technology, inspiring awe and wonder in those who saw her. And most amazing of all, her builders assured, she was unsinkable. (1)
Titanic’s passengers included some of the wealthiest people in the world. There were 12 dogs onboard (with three surviving: a Pekingese and two Pomeranians). First-class passengers were given copies of “The White Star Music Book” containing 352 songs so they could make requests. The musicians had to know all the titles.
Stretching 882 feet and 9 inches, Titanic I carried four cases of opium, fifty cases of toothpaste, more than 130,000 pounds of meat and fish, 1,750 pounds of ice cream, 400 asparagus tongs, one Renault 35 horse-power automobile, a fifty-line telephone switchboard, a cask of china headed for Tiffany’s, eight thousand dinner forks, twenty-nine boilers, a jeweled copy of “The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam” and five grand pianos. It was also stocked with 20,000 bottles of beer and stout, 1500 bottles of wine and 8000 cigars for use by first-class passengers. (For those interested in Jewish trivia, the boat also had on board seven parcels of parchment of the Torah owned by Hersh L. Siebald, as well as kosher accommodations. There is also the famous story of Leah Aks and her baby who miraculously survived the Titanic). The highest priced deluxe suite was priced at £900, or $4,500, the equivalent of $55,000 today (consider that an ordinary house at the time could be purchased for less than $1000), hence the nickname: “The Millionaire’s Suite.”
The last dinner served in the first-class saloon consisted of 11 courses.
These statistics provide a very clear picture of Titanic’s indulgent sumptuousness – an indication of the pomposity and overconfidence of the times.
This overconfidence would of course also be the undoing of the Titanic. And therein lays the brilliant prescience of the Rebbe Rashab’s Ayin Beis. But first, a bit more about the overinflated state of affairs in 1912, which led to the most terrible destruction the world would ever experience.
Transitional and overconfident times – like 1912 was – are very perilous, precisely because people’s confidence blinds them from any impending doom.
Titanic thus embodied the dangerous overconfidence of an immature generation. For all its blessings, this type of hubris created a false sense of security that sowed the seeds for potential disaster.
It was the beginning of the twentieth century and people had absolute faith in new science and technology. They believed that science in the twentieth century could and would provide answers to solve all problems.
Take, for example, the nonchalant reactions of Titanic’s passengers and crew, many of whom felt the sinking ship was a better bet than the tiny lifeboats. (“We are safer here than in that little boat,” J. J. Astor declared; he drowned.)
The sinking of the mighty Titanic, which tragically confirmed the worst fears, and exposed the flaws, of such hubris, represented the fall of a vain generation.
But things would get far worse before they got better.
The Plot Thickens: From the Frying Pan into the Fire
The arrogance associated with the age of the Titanic – and the disaster it brought on – was a mere foretaste of what was to come.
In just a few years after 1912 World War I would break out, killing more than 40 million people, and wounding and displacing millions more. If that were not enough, the next two decades would experience the darkest chapter in all of history: World War II and the Holocaust, killing more than 60 million people!
In many ways, the hubris connected to the early 20th century – and reflected in the building and sinking of the Titanic – was an advent of things to come: man-initiated wars that would take far many more lives. The hellish two World Wars unleashed later that decade and then again two decades later, would end up leaving close to 100 million people dead and consuming the entire world in what would become the bloodiest and most tumultuous period in all of history, shaking the universe to its core.
The seeds of catastrophe were sowed, but in 1912, when the world was riding high, no one could see the impending doom.
In 1912, when the Titanic embarked on its fateful voyage, no one knew or could imagine what final destiny this almighty ship would face.
In 1912 no one could predict the devastation that next few decades would bring, in the two World Wars.
But one man, in a small town in Russia, did know something that others did not.
A Rebbe is a visionary. True visionaries like the Rebbe Rashab take the pulse of their times, and sense the underlying cultural anxieties and other forces that shape the future. With a birds eye view they see not just the symptoms, but the causes. Not just the events, but their consequences. They don’t merely see the present, but sense the future. This is especially true when it comes to transitionary moment in history. As the tectonic plates of the past shift to make way for a new future, it takes particular acute vision to anticipate what is coming and set in motion protocols – measures and procedures – that will allow us to ease the blow of a new era, to evolve seamlessly painlessly into a new era. To anticipate and prepare for the new and changing future.
An illness is preceded by its cure, we are told. With Ayin Beis the Rebbe Rashab provided us with an antidote to the self-destruction that grows out of self-worship.
Like the commander in chief of an army, the visionary is several steps ahead of the curve and lays out a formula how to adapt to a new future and its unprecedented challenges and opportunities.
Without this vision we are left clueless and vulnerable to the changes ahead.
The great opportunity and challenge of 1912 — epitomized by Titanic — was balancing power and humility; how to succeed and prosper without self-destructing. The great danger of the era was checking mans’ titanic ambitions and confidence to ensure that they do not lead to destruction. Titanic symbolized the best and worst of that time: sheer size and opulence; sheer hubris and pride.
Like the visionary that he was, the Rebbe Rashab responded to the challenge of his times with equal and even greater vigor: He produced a “Titanic” of his own (well, actually one based on thousands of years of formidable scholarship), to counter the “Titanic” confidence and smugness of the early 20th century, and prevent its explosion into total anarchy and nihilism.
The remarkable theme of Hemshech Ayin Beis – “Series 72” – is the search for an interface between our selfish egos and the selfless Divine; between our superficial existence and the higher Divine reality. Existence as we see and experience it can appear divorced of any purpose and direction. Material life as we know it can become selfish, indulgent and narcissistic, detached from serving anything but oneself. Such dissonance and vanity contains the germ for all destruction.
As the world in the early 20th century was entering into an unprecedented “titanic” era – a new age of power, with all its formidable challenges; a new age of success, technology and prosperity, coupled with the entitlement and conceit that is so often a byproduct of affluence, as so aptly epitomized by the luxurious Titanic – the Rebbe Rashab provided us with a formula, an algorithm to create the necessary interfaces between material success and spirituality, between a life of luxury and higher purpose, between the Titanic of matter and the Titanic of spirit.
As the universe was at the brink of annihilation in 1912 – which only true visionaries could see – the Rebbe Rashab saw the need to dissect and revisit the “engineering room” that wires all of existence, and seek out the proper interfaces that would relieve existential tension, insecurity and egotism and allow us the ability to reconnect.
Ayin Beis offers us the missing link – the G-d particle within existence – that, when accessed, allows us to direct our human energy, drive and ambition toward its intended purpose: To generate powerful waves of Divine energy, through our acts of virtue and kindness, which will transform the world into a Divine home.
The Fall of the Ego
Let us explore this a bit further.
Reacting to the Titanic’s demise, the Rebbe Rashab reportedly said that the sinking exposed the misconceived sense of human infallibility; it humbled man and dealt a blow to the self-inflated and self-destructive notion of an all-powerful man declaring “kochi v’otzem yodi osoh li es ha’chayil ha’zeh,” that “my own power and strength has brought me my success.”
Titanic, as it name implies, symbolized the exaggerated, disproportionate, super-human confidence that defined the dawn of the early 20th century. Man could do anything. Man was stronger than G-d. Man can do no wrong. We are too big to fail. Titanic represented the most modern technology and opulence of its times. It epitomized human arrogance, the feeling that man is all-powerful and is indestructible and unsinkable. Whether those exact words were used or not, the feeling was that the Titanic – and all of man’s great achievements – could not be vanquished.
The ship’s very name Titanic – mythic in origin – captured the essence of the Titanic and its times: the Titans were a race of superbeings who fought the gods. “G-d Himself could not sink this ship” was the way the Titanic was described.
It’s hard to ignore the parallels between the Titanic and the original Tower of Babel, built by arrogant men to confront the Heavenly G-d.
But then… came the sinking of the Titanic. Just like the Titans before them, who lost to the gods they battled. Just like the Tower of Babel before them, which was destroyed by the G-d they confronted.
As sad as that sounds, the Titanic’s tragedy pales in comparison to the horrors that human arrogance would unleash on the world in the following years. It’s interesting to note that the Nazis adopted Nietzsche’s “ubermensch” – superman – as their model. What began as small fry in the unsinkable Titanic and in the Titans challenging the gods, the Nazis turned into a full blown man replacing god – an invincible, indestructible “thousand year” Third Reich (as Hitler declared in a speech in November 1937): to build a millennial city adequate [in splendor] to a thousand year old people with a thousand year old historical and cultural past, for its never-ending future).
But instead of 1000 or even 50 years, the Third Reich hit its own iceberg and disappeared beneath the waves of its own weight 12 years later. Live by the ego, die by the ego.
Nietzsche: God is dead.
God: Nietzsche is dead.
The Nazi version of Nietzsche’s ubermentsch went down with the same strength – and as quickly – as it rose. While leaving indelible scars in its wake.
With this context – which lays bare the precarious state of events of 1912 – we can begin to appreciate the great contribution of Ayin Beis.
Much More than a Sunken Ship
The Titanic and its sinking ostensibly seemed like a random disaster, an accident that could have been avoided. But the Rebbe Rashab saw something far deeper – and today, in retrospect, we are all wiser for it. Titanic represented the flamboyance and grandeur of an era – the end of the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era age. It symbolized the naïve overconfidence of a generation, blinded by its power and achievements to the impending storms.
In A Night to Remember, Walter Lord’s 1955 definite biography of the Titanic, Lord writes that the sinking marked “the end of the old days” of nineteenth-century technological confidence, as well as of “noblesse oblige.” In his book, Down with the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster (first published in 1996), Steven Biel writes that while the sinking was “neither catalyst nor cause,” it “did expose and come to represent anxieties about modernity.”
Such is the nature of the self-worship and self-importance and conceit that results from fantastic accomplishments (as elaborated upon in Ayin Beis): It creates illusions of grandeur, and blinds you from seeing the potential consequences and pitfalls of your own successes.
The sinking of the majestic Titanic symbolized the fall of a self-exalting her from beauty and grace, the humbling of presumption, the self-destruction resulting from overconfidence – the very talents and confidence that lifted him to the greatest heights became his undoing, preventing him from seeing the looming disaster.
This is the deceptive nature of materialism (as explained in Ayin Beis): Worship it and you are doomed.
As Mendelsohn writes: The ship’s mythic name—the Titans were a race of superbeings who fought the gods and lost—points up a classic theme: hubris punished. (“G-d Himself could not sink this ship.”) Steven Biel reproduces the lyrics of a song sung by South Carolina cotton-mill workers: “This great ship was built by man / That is why she could not stand / She could not sink was the cry from one and all / But an iceberg ripped her side / And He cut down all her pride.”
An entire section of Ayin Beis elaborates in the self-destructive nature of Sodom, who felt totally self-contained, “what is mine is mine, what is your is yours,” with the arrogant belief that we, humans, have no need for each other. This self-worshiping lack of symbiosis was their undoing. The only cure to self-interest, explains the Rebbe Rashab, is humility – bittul – a force that allows us to transcend the self, the ego and the blindness and presumptuousness that inevitably comes with all success.
And that was just the beginning. The world would change in the next few years in ways that no one could ever have imagined. The hubris of the Titanic and the tragedy of its sinking would be completely obliterated by the cataclysmic World Wars caused by far greater arrogance and audacity. But the Titanic can be seen as a prelude – albeit in microcosm – of what was to come.
The Titanic’s fateful first and last voyage across the Atlantic, from Europe to New York, can be seen as a ominous omen and harbinger – a tragic metaphor – of what was to come: The entire world – with all its progress and pride – being hurtled into the abyss, digging its own grave, drowning in its own gravitas, sinking into its self-conceived hubris, with the worst possible consequences.
Transforming the Ego
But there is something far greater to Ayin Beis than the recognition of human folly and the fall of the ego that deludes itself into thinking that it is all-powerful – symbolized by the sinking of the Titanic.
This message does not require a magnum opus of 1500 pages.
The Rebbe Rashab did not suffice with the painful lesson of the Titanic’s demise – the fall of the ego. He wanted to give us a positive alternative – an antidote to human arrogance, a cure to the pride that comes with great innovations; a vehicle with which to touch the infinite and achieve indestructibility. And that cure is not to destroy the innovation and the success. Neither is it to annihilate the pride we take in our successes. Rather, Titanic II – Hemshech Ayin Beis – teaches us how to harness, channel and direct our human triumphs toward the Divine cause. The objective is not to eliminate the ego, but to transform it. (2)
Anticipating the new world order ahead, and the need to balance the extreme forces tugging at us in opposite directions – the Rebbe Rashab composed his epic Ayin Beis to address this precise dilemma: a formula that would serve as a titanic counterforce of humility to offset and harness the titanic human drives and technologies pulling from the other end.
A Study in Contrast: From Arrogance to Humility
We thus have a tale of two Titanics indeed.
The tale of the first Titanic is the story of hubris and pride; the arrogance of materialism.
In stark contrast, the tale of the second Titanic is the story of humility and selflessness.
The entire theme of Ayin Beis is how to sublimate the ego of matter and convert it into a fuel for spirit.
Though Ayin Beis is the longest discourse ever delivered, consisting of close to 1500 pages, still, placed side by side the mighty Titanic, this three-volume series is miniscule in comparison.
Miniscule in sheer physical size that is. In quantity. But not in quality.
And then again, Titanic in relation to the vast Atlantic Ocean is even smaller…
Which of the two is more titanic? At the time most would have voted for the powerful ship, and disregarded Ayin Beis altogether (or at best, dismissed it as an abstract discourse, insignificant to our times). But now, in retrospect, we know better (or do we?): The great Titanic lays buried in ruins at the bottom of the Atlantic. While the humble Ayin Beis is just beginning to soar.
And which of these two Titanics remains unsinkable? The overconfident one or the humble one?
And let us remember:Titanic was built by professionals. The Ark by an amateur…
Where do We Stand Today?
Titanic slid into the abyss at a time when blind faith in technology was peaking, and its sinking became the 20th-century metaphor for the futile conceit that humans can ever conquer nature.
Tragically, this conceited attitude spiraled totally out of control and became the world’s greatest nightmare with the rise of the Nazis, whose self-worship knew no bounds – and as a result, wreaked havoc and devastation never before seen on this planet.
It would not be a stretch to say that Ayin Beis, which began 37 days after the sinking of the Titanic (and was conceived while the Titanic was being built), came to repair and prepare the cure before the illness of the arrogance resulting from men thinking themselves as gods in their ability to create technology and control lives, as epitomized by the Titanic and its aftermath.
Ayin Beis guides us and offers us tools to counter vanity and conceit. We can conquer nature not because we are more powerful, but because we are more humble – charged with the mission to elevate nature.
The Titanic of materialism could not last. It died with its own sword. Born with ego, die with ego. It rests today at the bottom of the Atlantic. A metal hunk of wreck preserved in its watery grave as a stark reminder of the folly of arrogance and the fragility of all things material. In stark contrast, as the physical titanic sunk, in its place arose the spiritual titanic called Ayin Beis – a monumental tour de force – which stands today stronger than ever. And we are just beginning to appreciate its colossal contributions.
With Ayin Beis, and its formula of balancing ego with spirit, the Rebbe Rashab was perhaps trying to prevent the cataclysms that would ravish the earth in the coming decades.
Had we only heeded its message.
But it was the infancy of the twentieth century and people, like naïve infants, placed their absolute faith in the new almighty science and technology, and in the humans that developed it, believing that it would solve all our problems.
The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic shattered some confidence in science and made people more skeptical about such fantastic claims.
And yet, we still did not learn our lesson from the fallen Titanic. Had we taken its message to heart, coupled with the teachings of Ayin Beis, not to succumb to the hubris of human conceit, we may have avoided the cataclysmic destruction that would ravish the earth in the next few years.
Had we only heeded the call of Ayin Beis…
Alas, the human race was humbled not through self-discipline (as proscribed by Ayin Beis), but by devastation – the horrific two World Wars and the hell that consumed the earth.
The first half of the 20th century would see the rise of the greatest destruction due to man trying to behave like god. Darkness engulfed the universe.
But then, the dawn would finally break in the second half of the 20th century, after we were deeply humbled – with a very heavy price – teaching us the severe limits of man’s compassion.
Today we have been humbled – both by devastation and by maturation. Urban legend or not: Science and technology have grown today far beyond anything imaginable in 1912, yet no one today will repeat what a US patent officer purportedly said in 1898, explaining his reason for resigning his post: “everything that can be invented, has been invented.”
Because as we climb the mountain of progress – coupled with the painful lessons we have learned about our mortal parameters – we can see a far greater horizon. We then realize that as much as we know, as much as we have conquered, there is so much more we don’t know and so much more than we will never conquer.
So today Ayin Beis rises…
We did not know or appreciate the lesson 100 years ago. But now we have the opportunity to do so.
And the timing could not be better: As we stand at the dawn of the 21st century, our technological revolution is far greater than it was in 1912, and only accelerating at breathtaking speeds.
We have today our share of vices – pride arrogance and greed – as demonstrated in our latest economic meltdowns. So Ayin Beis is the perfect blueprint to help guide us into the next century, seasoned and armed with methods and tools to integrate our drives and our egos with their higher purpose.
A New Era
As the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking is remembered, the second Titanic (Ayin Beis) of 1912 is just beginning to rise.
While material things all die (some faster than others), some things – perhaps all true things – take time to emerge; they are part of a process, a gestation period that first incubates an idea until it takes hold.
The first Titanic – the famous one – captured and continues to capture the imagination of a generation due to its sheer size, its arrogant confidence and its commensurate stunning demise.
The first Titanic is a tale of human arrogance, material obsession, the fatal combination of pride and cowardice which so captures the superficiality of vanity and power worship. A tale of exposing the mortality of the (perceived) immortal and unsinkable.
The second Titanic is a tale of true endurance. An eternal tale. A formula for channeling the human self and the existential ego and turning it into Divine fuel. A tale of taking the mortal and making it immortal. A tale of exposing the (true) immortality in the mortal.
Now 100 years later, we have the wisdom of retrospect.
Two Titanics tell the tale of the 20th century – the destructive power of self-worship and arrogance vs. the endurance of humility – as well as the secret to surviving the 21st.
Whom do you trust?
Why the Titanic Endures
In the final analysis, standing one century later, the primary reason we can’t get the Titanic out of our heads is perhaps because it – that is, The Tale of Two Titanic’s – captures like nothing else the story of our lives: the tension that we all experience between self-worship and higher purpose, between confidence and humility, matter and spirit, modernity and faith.
Perhaps Titanic resonates in our unconscious – reflecting our struggle to find balance between self and soul, to integrate our egos and our Divine purpose.
The last century is indeed a tale of two Titanics.
Titanic I lays buried in ruins beneath the Atlantic; its memory however remains indestructible – a rude and stark reminder of the 20th century folly, of the consequences of mans’ overconfidence and self-destructive self-worship.
Titanic II – Ayin Beis – is alive and kicking, as it carries the secret of bridging these two worlds – the world of matter and spirit, the world of ego and egolessness, and yes – the world of land and water (conscious and unconscious).
Only titanic humility can allow a material Titanic to be at peace with the sea.
After maturing through the 20th century, we now have the opportunity to not repeat the same mistakes as our technologies and scientific prowess accelerates far beyond the achievements of one century ago. We now have learned the critical need for humility to check our ravenous and all-consuming self-assurance.
The centennial of the Ayin Beis comes at a perfect time: An encyclopedic guide to integrating G-dliness in our self-oriented lives.
As we begin to celebrate this centennial in the coming weeks, now is a good time to commit to studying Ayin Beis. In that spirit we have created a Ayin Beis YouTube channel, and are in the process of creating an Ayin Beis website, offering a set of tools to study, analyze and apply the fascinating teachings of the epic into our lives.
And concluding on a jovial note: It also may help to toast l’chaim to Ayin Beis. After all, the only Titanic passenger to survive the ice cold Atlantic water one century ago was Chief Baker Charles Joughin, who helped load bread into the lifeboats. Apparently immunized to freezing cold waters by the whiskey he had drunk, Joughin reportedly survived several hours swimming in the ocean before being rescued…
(1) There is some controversy as to whether such a statement was ever issued by White Star Line, operators of the Titanic. Regardless, the fact remains that people believed the myth of Titanic as unsinkable. When the New York office of the White Star Line was informed that Titanic was in trouble, White Star Line Vice President P.A.S. Franklin announced: “We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable.” By the time Franklin spoke those words Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean. A Night to Remember, Walter Lord’s 1955 definite biography of the Titanic, documents a hand deck saying to a passenger at Titanic’s launch: “God Himself could not sink this ship.”
(2) In contrast, Hemshech Samach Vav focuses primarily on subjugating the self to a higher cause, rather than integrating the two.
A TALE OF TWO TITANICS
Chronology and Statistics
Belfast, Ireland, March 1909
Titanic is built and laid down by Harland and Wolff commissioned (in September 1908) by White Star Line, a British shipping company, owned by J.P. Morgan, an American tycoon.
RMS Titanic Specs:
Length: 882 feet 9 inches (269.06 m) long with a maximum breadth of 92 feet 6 inches (28.19 m).
Height: 104 feet (32 m), measured from the base of the keel to the top of the bridge. 175 ft (53.3 m) – keel to top of funnels.
Weight: 46,328 gross register tons. With a draught of 34 feet 7 inches (10.54 m), she displaced 52,310 tons.
Depth: 64 ft 6 in (19.7 m)
Decks: 9 (A–G)
Installed power: 24 double-ended and 5 single-ended boilers feeding two reciprocating steam engines for the wing propellers and a low-pressure turbine for the center propeller. Effect: 46,000 HP.
Propulsion: Two 3-blade wing propellers and one 4-blade center propeller.
Speed: Cruising: 21 kn (39 km/h; 24 mph). Max: 24 kn (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Capacity: 2,224 passengers.
Lifeboats: 20 for 1,178 people.
Cost: $7.5 million (equivalent to $400m today).
Built: It took 3,000 men two years to build the Titanic. Three million rivets held its massive hull together.
Objective: To compete with its shipping rivals, who had just launched the fastest passenger ships then in service, by creating a ship that would be bigger than anything that had gone before as well as being the last word in comfort and luxury. Size over speed.
Publicity: Most famous ship of its time.
Status: Sank 100 years ago, leaving 1514 dead, and is presently in its watery grave at the bottom of the Atlantic, in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. The wreck of the Titanic remains on the seabed, gradually disintegrating at a depth of 12,415 feet (3,784 m). Since its rediscovery in 1985, thousands of artifacts have been recovered from the sea bed and put on display at museums around the world. Titanic has become one of the most famous ships in history, her memory kept alive by numerous books, films, exhibits and memorials.
Honoring the centennial from the its sinking, the Titanic is now in full view of the public; the demise of “an unsinkable ship” serving as a stark reminder of the folly of arrogance and the fragility of all things material.
Menton, France, January 1912
The Rebbe Rashab (Rabbi Sholom Dovber) is in deep meditation, developing a new revolutionary Chassidic treatise – which he would begin to write and deliver later in the year, and would become the longest and deepest mystical epic, known as Hemshech Tov Reish Ayin Beis or Te’rav (literally: series 5672, for the year 5672 when the discourse began), or Hemshech Ayin Beis for short.
Ayin Beis Specs:
144 written and spoken discourses.
637 pages in manuscript.
1479 pages in print.
Approx. 770,000 words!
Delivered over a span of 5 years.
Capacity: Initially delivered to and heard by a handful of people.
Potential reach: 7 billion people and counting.
Objective: To bridge heaven and earth; to create a working interface between the self-oriented self-centered material universe and the Divine.
Publicity: Mostly unknown, except for a select few.
Status: The series was first published in its entirety in 1977, 65 years after its creation. It still remains essentially unknown and obscure.
Southampton, England, April 10, 1912
Titanic leaves port on its maiden voyage to New York.
375 miles south of Newfoundland, Sunday, April 14 1912, 11:40PM
Titanic strikes iceberg. It sideswiped and crashed into an iceberg that towered a hundred feet over the deck. [Ninety percent of an iceberg is hidden beneath the water. Thus the iceberg was literally a mountain of ice close to a thousand feet from top to bottom. Its massive knife-like edges beneath the water surface punctured and gashed the ship along 250 feet of its hull]. The glancing collision caused Titanic’s hull plates to buckle inwards in a number of locations on her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea. Over the next two and a half hours, the ship gradually fills with water. Passengers and some crew members are evacuated in lifeboats, many of which are launched only partly filled.
350 miles off Newfoundland, April 15 1912, 2:20AM
Titanic sinks bow-first, leaving 1514 dead, and 710 survivors, taken aboard from the lifeboats by the RMS Carpathia a few hours later.
Lubavitch, Belorus, May 22, 1912, 1st Day Shavuot 5762
The Rebbe Rashab begins delivering Hemshech Ayin Beis.