Weathermen, Prophets and Independence (Ideas #122)

Ever notice our propensity to talk about the weather? Give us a blizzard or a heat wave or even unseasonably pleasant weather and we are all ready to make some remark. I don’t just mean barbers and taxi drivers, but even those of us who generally think that we are above such trivialities.


In Modern Hebrew, the word for weatherman is chozeh, a classical word for prophet. I don’t know how carefully this word was chosen, but it does seem quite apt. The obvious differences notwithstanding, both a prophet and a weatherman tell us something that there is no conventional way of knowing. When it comes to the weather, there are too many interacting variables for meteorologists to be certain of the results. As a result, there is no way to make even an educated guess concerning the weather more than a few days away.


Though humbling, our inability to foresee the weather creates a certain fascination – as opposed to more and more things that we are able to plan, the weather remains out of our control. This is not always what we would like. Still, this lack of control generally gives us a paradoxical feeling of comfort. Maybe we sense an awareness of our place in front of G-d.


Rabbi Natan Slifkin once asked why it is that we are more inclined to think of G-d when things appear inexplicable than when we are able to perceive  all of the apparent design that typifies our world. That is a very good question. I am not sure of the answer, but I do know that we do generally respond that way.


Possibly, it is because awareness comes of need. Even with the best of motives, the power gained by the expansion of human knowledge has made us feel less of a need for G-d.


 In contrast, the absence of power leaves us vulnerable. And yet it is at the point of vulnerability that deep relationships are created. Accordingly, it is in the absence of power that we are able to have community.


I am certainly not against the acquisition of knowledge nor am I interested in foregoing the great material benefits that it has allowed us to accrue. But at the same time, I am aware that its price may be unbearable. For it is our essence to want relationship with G-d.


Jews have good reasons to fear relationships with other nations and to cherish the temporal independence of the State of Israel. At the same time, they should not think of the power to stand alone as something ideal in all regards. Ultimately we will need to have relationships with other nations as well as with G-d.  


In the meantime, recent events in Geneva remind us of the limits of our power. In spite of our very valiant efforts, national security is not entirely in our hands. Certainly, we must do what we can to assure it, but perhaps we need not be so desperate or depressed about its elusiveness. Perhaps there is even some small room for delight in our very vulnerability.