Blind as a….Cardiologist?

November 14th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 22 comments

My earliest recollection of seeing a man knowledgeable in one specialty making foolish pronouncements in another area was South African heart-transplant pioneer, Dr. Christiaan Barnard.  It was March, 1969, and his successful transplant of a healthy heart into middle-aged South African grocer, Louis Washkansky, 15 months earlier had transformed Barnard into an international celebrity.

At a charity event in Johannesburg one evening, I watched the handsome superstar beguile a bevy of socialites hovering around him.  I edged closer hoping to hear more about his historic medical procedure.  Instead, what I heard was Dr. Barnard explaining why the Americans’ race to land a man on the moon was doomed.  Then, in response to a question from a pretty young thing, he launched into a lesson on how to maintain a long and happy marriage.  His audience hung on his every word and as a young guy with very limited life experience, I can’t claim that I felt any particular skepticism.

Only a few months later, two events taught me caution about pontificating outside your area of expertise.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon and Christiaan Barnard and Aletta, his wife of 20 years, divorced. I decided that although his medical expertise was epic, his knowledge of space travel and marriage left much to be desired. This idea was reinforced when Dr. Barnard’s second and third marriages each lasted 12 years.

It is easy for even remarkable human beings possessing enormous, but specialized knowledge, to be blind in other areas.

This truism returned to me the other day while reading that one of the founders of Paypal and the force behind the remarkable Tesla automobile, Elon Musk, had made a completely ridiculous announcement.  During a speech to the nation’s governors, he insisted that the biggest threat facing civilization is artificial intelligence.  Really?  Furthermore, he assured the roomful of politicians that the only way to cope was by vastly increased government regulation.  The way government regulation has improved medicine, education, and Amtrak?

Spiritual blindness is more prevalent and far more dangerous than ophthalmic blindness.

God expects us to make use of existing medical knowledge to heal our physical bodies, so when Scripture discusses maladies, they are usually spiritually based.  For instance, let’s glance at the three instances of blindness in the Bible.

The prophet Eli had sons who were behaving abominably:

Now, Eli had become very old, and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and that they would lie with the women who congregated at the entrance
of the tent of meeting.

(I Samuel 2:22)

Not surprisingly, it was emotionally untenable for him to accept that his sons and heirs were such failures.  Consequently, he is soon described as ‘blind’.

And it was on that day, that Eli was lying in his place, and his eyes had begun to grow dim; he could not see. 
(I Samuel 3:2)

Another example is Isaac.  His older son, Esau, is a bitter disappointment.  He denigrates the family’s spiritual birthright and marries women who do the same.

And Jacob said, Sell me this day your birthright.  And Esau said….
what use is this birthright to me?
(Genesis 25:31-32)

And Esau was forty years old when he married Judith.the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bosmath the daughter of Elon the Hittite;
and they made life bitter for Isaac and for Rebekah.

(Genesis 26:34-35)

Not surprisingly, it is emotionally painful for him to acknowledge the truth about his son so he too is described as blind.

And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old,
his eyes became dim so he could not see…

(Genesis 27:1)

The only other instance of “natural” Biblical blindness needs a little help from ancient Jewish wisdom.  You’ll remember that after Cain murdered Abel, God imposed punishments.  One strange part of God’s retribution for his crime was to assure Cain:

…the killer of Cain will arise in the 7th generation…
(Genesis 4:15)

I am of course aware that the conventional translation, based on the King James version, reads “…Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold…”   Not only is this not exactly what the Hebrew original says, but as we all know, there is no record of anyone being punished ‘sevenfold’ for killing Cain.

Now, let’s see who is the seventh generation from Cain?  Turns out his name was Tuval-Cain and he was responsible for casting formidable weapons from iron.  (Genesis 4: 17-22).  In a strange verse, his father, Lemech, makes a confession to his two wives.  He admits to having killed a man and a boy and adds a mysterious allusion to Cain dying.  (Genesis 4:23)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains what happened.  Weapon-obsessed son Tuval-Cain, took his blind father, Lemech, out hunting.  Thinking he’d spotted a wild animal in the bush, he placed a powerful crossbow he had built into his father’s hands and pointed him towards the target.  Lemech fired and with his son guiding him they raced to see their victim.  To Tuval-Cain’s shock, he saw that the ‘prey’ was his legendary ancestor Cain. When Lemech realized what happened, he lashed out in horror and dismay and accidentally killed his son.

Once again, we find blindness linked to a father resisting seeing and acknowledging the truth about his son’s failings.  In this case, a fresh and developing world did not exactly need a weapons-maker.  Like Eli and Isaac, Lemech was blind to Tuval-Cain’s shortcomings.

We can all be quite blind in certain areas particularly if there is any emotion involved.  The emotion can be ego, either a result of our pride in our accomplishments or on account of our emotional involvement with the topic on which we pontificate.

If “blindness” can happen to Lemech, Isaac, and Eli the prophet, and if it can happen to super-achievers like Barnard and Musk, it can also afflict you and me.  Arrogance at our own achievements can bring on blindness as can emotional involvement.  It is hard to keep blindness at bay when people we love (or are infatuated with) are concerned.

It is not hard for an adored celebrity to start believing that he knows everything about everything.  It is not hard for a super-successful entrepreneur with no failures on his resume to think that his mechanical inventions have the power to take over the world.

The Eternal Guide Book assures us that artificial intelligence will impact the world just as the internal combustion engine did when it replaced horses, and just as radio and the Internet did when they arrived.  But a threat to civilization?  Don’t be ridiculous. The best source for everything from marriage secrets to societal threats is not from an oft-married celebrity or an entrepreneur, but from the Manufacturer’s Instruction Manual.  Studying Scripture doesn’t just bring knowledge.  It brings something far more valuable—wisdom.

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22 comments

Teena says:

Rabbi;

I hope I’m not being presumptuous thinking you do not read the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, it talks about a time coming where man will not be able to buy or sell unless he has a mark either on his forehead or righthand. This mark signifies the beast who will try and rule the world. Only technology gone awry will force civilization to go this route. Revelation 13:16-18

Teena,
There is no logical and absolute connection between what’s discussed in Revelation and technology. Also, spiritual blindness is much more dangerous than the inanimate technology we are free to use as our values direct.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Teena–
Not only are you not being presumptuous but you are absolutely correct. I have never studied the New Testament. My passionate love affair with the incandescent Truth of the Torah has me obsessively and exclusively focused there. After all, no man has more than 24 hours in every day.
Cordially
RDL

Eric Granholm says:

Please explain how Cain managed during the Flood of Noah’s time.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Eric–
Cain died during the seventh generation from Adam while Noah (and the flood) were ten generations removed from Adam. When the flood came, Cain was long gone. Thus one could say he managed just fine or else he didn’t have to manage at all
Cordially
RDL

Ben Patel says:

Dear Rabbi
Greetings from Africa, My wife and I along with our six kids are Missionaries.
We are a mobile team travelling through Southern Africa serving and making a difference.

I’ve read two of your books, ie Thou Shall Prosper and Business Secrets from The Bible.

Just wanted to drop you a line and pass on a HUGE Thank You. They have been a tremendous help to me and my family as we continue to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbour.

God bless you, appreciate you sharing these Jewels.

Love in an awesome God

Ben and family

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Blessings to you dear Ben and to your wife and your six dedicated children–
Thank you for your missionary work in Southern Africa. The dedication of Christian missionaries to spread the Gospel in the face of hardship and peril brought civilization to Africa and indeed to most of the world. I was born in Southern Africa (as were the two visionaries I discussed in my Thought Tool above) and still can recall the experience of waking up in my tent as the sun rose over the African veldt.
Your kind words about two of my books, Thou Shall Prosper and Business Secrets from The Bible bring me encouragement and joy.
Wishing you all ongoing success,
Cordially
RDL

Anita says:

Dear Rabbi

Thank you for your interesting insights on spiritual blindnes.
However praying that you will also be set free from spiritual blindness. I respectably urge you to read and study the whole Bible (the written word of the Lord G-d) ) completely inclusive of the New Testament.

Your (and family) salvation is found in Jesus Christ whom G-d sent as a love offering for you.

2 Corinthians 4:3-5
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Blessings & peace
Anita

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Anita–
I assure you that I take no offense at you attributing my commitment to the Torah and to my ancient Jewish heritage to spiritual blindness. Unlike most Jews, I take no offense at comments like yours that occasionally come my way, because unlike most Jews, I understand that your love for Christ compels you to want to share your Christian faith. Furthermore, I know that Christian evangelism (of which you are clearly a worthy representative) is responsible for bringing much of the world out of darkness. I would encourage you to read more of our books and perhaps listen to my podcast https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show and watch the TV show that Susan and I host http://www.tct.tv/watch-tct/on-demand-ajw in order better to understand why your letter will yield no fruit from your point of view. My commitments are firm and unshakeable. Just as, I know, yours are. And that is good. We are bonded, not by theology, but by the Bible and by God’s message to mankind through Moses on Mt Sinai. Please continue your outreach and your drive to bring more people to Christian faith, but please exert your considerable efforts upon that huge population of hedonistic non-believers rather than upon Jews. You will find results and bring more good to more people for the glory of God and for the betterment of humanity.
Cordially
RDL

bob aronson says:

“please exert your considerable efforts upon that huge population of hedonistic non-believers rather than upon Jews”….
Teacher- as you know from the 2012 Pew Poll on US Judaism, 80% of the 4000 US Jews polled are everything else first (humanists, atheists, socialists, progressives, etc.) and Jewish last, if at all….Pew referred to them as “the nothing Jews”…. they are amongst the “hedonistic non-believers”….

ps where i live, the reform movement temple is actively reaching out to the non-jewish politically progressive community for conversion to reform movement judiasm….

please have the courage to publish my comment …. someone there has been ignoring my comments and wont publish them…. and I have been pointing nothing Jews and gentiles to you since 1999, but I am not feeling any love from your people there….i am falling out of love with you but not with yours and Susan’s teaching. Shalom!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Bob–
Falling out of (or in) love has little to do with the real world of human relationships and to the extent you and I have a relationship, it is based on beliefs and ideas, not on emotions. That’s how I see it. In any event, my approach makes for far more durable, stable and rewarding relationships in correspondents as well as in marriage. I hope you agree.
Finally, publishing your comments has nothing to do with courage and everything to do with cogent business strategy. To put it bluntly, we tend not to publish any comments that we feel the main body of our readers will not understand or will find boring. The name of the game is always pleasing our customers and if failing to publish a meaningless or boring comment displeases the writer (1 person) but pleases thousands of other readers, the calculus is not complicated.
Cordially
RDL

bob aronson says:

wow….so you have a secret aversion to truth, and a not so secret aversion to me personally…. wow….may your dirty little secrets be exposed….

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Bob–
You pride yourself. I simply do not know enough about you; your beliefs and behavior, in order to have any aversion towards you–secret or apparent. In any event, I harbor no aversion to anyone who benefits from my work which I sincerely hope you do.
Cordially
RDL

Dumisa says:

Wow! Rabbi I have enjoyed and learned a lot from your Thought Tools and Susan’s Musings. But this Thought Tool is the best yet that I have drawn interesting spiritual strategies for successful living.

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.

Dumisa from Cape Town 🙂

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Dumisa–
How delighted your letter from Cape Town made me. My father was the rabbi of the Great Synagogue in the Gardens, Cape Town for many years.
I am also delighted about you finding benefit from our work and thank you for taking the time to tell Susan and me.
Cordially
RDL

Ruth says:

As a Seventh-Day Adventist, I am drawn to listen closely to all that you share. Several things we have in common are the health message, the Sabbath and the state of the dead. Let me know if I am incorrect.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Ruth–
I am not knowledgeable about the doctrines or practices of the Seventh Day Adventist Church but I know that you are. I try to be as open as possible about my Jewish beliefs and practices and to share as much as possible with you so you are in the best position to answer your own question.
Cordially
RDL

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Bob–
Falling out of (or in) love has little to do with the real world of human relationships and to the extent you and I have a relationship, it is based on beliefs and ideas, not on emotions. That’s how I see it. In any event, my approach makes for far more durable, stable and rewarding relationships in correspondents as well as in marriage. I hope you agree.
Finally, publishing your comments has nothing to do with courage and everything to do with cogent business strategy. To put it bluntly, we tend not to publish any comments that we feel the main body of our readers will not understand or will find boring. The name of the game is always pleasing our customers and if failing to publish a meaningless or boring comment displeases the writer (1 person) but pleases thousands of other readers, the calculus is not complicated.
Cordially
RDL

bob aronson says:

looks as if yet another one of my comment wa judged boring and meaningless…..may our sins and secrets find us all out! Shalom!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Hey Bob–
C’mon, give us a break here; if you go back and count (as we asked an assistant here to do for us) nobody has more printed comments on these web pages than you! Seriously!! And don’t think we don’t appreciate your faithful correspondence. We do! But just in the nature of things, the time consuming process of moderating a busy website just doesn’t allow everything to be published. This is particularly true since Susan and I really do respond personally to the letters that make it to the page–just as I have always responded personally to your letters that we have published. But c’mon, stop trying to catch us out with yet another “Got’cha! You didn’t publish my comment!” That’s just counterproductive and unfair. Shalom
Cordially
RDL

Ruth says:

God bless you for sharing your wisdom as straightforward as you do: without malice. I continue to be blessed by your books and CDs. I grew up in an alcoholic household so the wisdom I received happened mostly after I moved out at the age of 19…little by little, reading the Bible, attending churches and synagogues searching for Biblical truth. I cannot thank you and Ms. Lapin enough for sharing.

Nancy says:

Dear Readers and Rabbi Lapin,

It seems that a few of you have entirely missed the core principle of this Thought Tool. If I may, I’d like to take opportunity to remind my evangelical brethren of Romans 11, verse 28-29 in particular, “Regarding the gospel, they are enemies on your account; but regarding the election, they are love on account of the patriarchs. For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” I note that we might stand to regard these patriarchs with the same endearment as that which Rabbi and Susan exhibit.

As I’ve matured, I can’t help but notice my vision does seem to be failing progressively. However, I am confident in rabbi’s salvation as much as my own, especially having been given a crystal clear vision (in a dream of Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin). Finding myself with them in the living room of great house built entirely of polished Cedar wood sitting cozily between them on a love seat. While we didn’t say much but smile at one another, there was an ambiance of my wondering if it were I that were visiting but was assured that it was just as much my home as theirs.

There was also great dining table and wall-to-wall hutches draped with tapestry of the richest sapphire. While a ceiling was conspicuously absent, I could look over a railing down a flight of step where there was a train set among several boxes. Upon waking from that dream, and carrying on with my day, I subsequently tuned in to one of Rabbi’s podcast (of which I had happened to have been assigned to transcribe, no less) wherein he elaborated on this former scene.

All this after a bedtime prayer to receive answer whether I should be pleasing to my Lord that I sit under Rabbi’s tutelage. And I have yet to regret it.

God bless and keep you.
With much love,

Nancy

P.S. I am perfectly content should Rabbi choose not to publish this comment, and thank them for the hospitality shown me in their very own home(page) while I am but their humble guest.

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