No, this isn’t about politics. I might use another animal in the title if it were.
One of Rabbi Lapin’s stated goals is to explain why Jewish people seem to succeed so often. Being a rabbi and a successful businessman, he seems qualified to address the topic. His unique perspective on finances made this an interesting read. However, it was his occasional references to Scripture that fascinated me.
I’m not Jewish. To my knowledge, Jesus is the only Jew I know. I don’t think Kansas has a huge Jewish population, but I could be wrong. Maybe I’m surrounded by Jews but they’re all so successful and prosperous, I never see them.
TT: That was a bit flippant. My apologies. Rabbi Lapin is so matter-of-fact about the whole thing, he’s got me doing it.
Rabbi Lapin posits that prosperity is intrinsically linked to understanding the universe as God created it. Jews, thanks to the Torah, are in a unique position to exploit this fact. Being God’s chosen people, and speaking and reading God’s perfect language (Hebrew, if you were wondering) allows them to make the most of their resources.
Like I said, an interesting read.
But what does that have to do with a man and his donkey? Here it is.
According to Rabbi Lapin, when donkeys show up in scripture, they are symbols of man’s fallen nature. A donkey isn’t always a donkey, you see. The Torah teaches each man is actually two men – one is the materialistic, fallen creature and the other is the spiritual, transcendent creature. Both are real, but only one can be in control. For the Jew, the spiritual man must lead and the materialistic man must serve. Thus, in scripture, a man saddling his donkey is actually a man getting his materialistic nature under control.
Yeah, I had to read it several times myself. Lapin uses the example of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac (and, boy, does he have some odd things to say about that) to illustrate. It’s too complicated to share here. You’ll have to read the book.
I’ve heard this “dualistic nature” concept before. The Gnostic heretics took it so far as to completely separate man’s spirit from his body in regards to sin. As long as your spirit knows the right stuff, it doesn’t matter what your body does; you’re saved. Not true, but nice try. What caught my attention here is what a Jewish rabbi has to say on the subject.
Rabbi Lapin says for the Jew all of life is a struggle against your natural tendencies, a disciplined training of self to become what you are not. See, he would never say, “I yam what I yam” (even if he liked Popeye and I can’t speak to his preference). He would say, “you are what you choose to make yourself.” Knowing about this inherent duality allows the Jew to overcome it.
We’ll see if I am. I’ve got a lot of year ahead of me.