If you, like me, have been learning from my husband for any length of time, you will be familiar with the idea that the physical world reflects the spiritual world. The fact that our eyes project an upside-down image of whatever we see unto our retinas isn’t a failure of evolution, it is a Divine message. Our eyes can easily lead us astray whether it is when we see a decadent piece of chocolate cake, a beautiful person or a ‘must-have’ gadget.
In contrast, our balance mechanism is located in our ears. Evolutionarily speaking, this makes little sense. Our heads are in constant motion. The only reason we don’t lose our balance when we tilt our head is the equivalent of thousands of lines of software compensating for our head’s motion. Evolution should have ensured that our balance mechanism would be in a more stable part of our bodies like the shoulders or hips. This isn’t a failure of evolution, it is a Divine message. We process information more rationally and unemotionally when we hear or read it rather than when we see a picture.
The media is agog with the news from NASA that, after spending a prolonged amount of time in the zero-gravity environment of space, astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA differs from his earthbound twin brother Mark’s DNA. While scientists will discuss how strongly controlled the experiment was and whether the DNA changed permanently or it is only expressing itself differently, we should be asking what spiritual message we can draw from this.
Life is full of changes, surprises and unexpected happenings. Anyone who has lived for a number of decades has seen people who have lived honorably their whole lives become corrupted by dishonesty or immorality. They have also seen people living depraved lives make a complete turnaround and become scrupulously moral. We have watched society change its mind about what is good and what is evil and observed events uproot previously held definitions of normal.
We might have thought that one constant in our lives is our DNA. It turns out that we would have been mistaken. We can do things that will alter our very biology. Whether our actual genetic code changes, or the changes are at the epi-genetic level, the point is that our actions impact even the basic code of our bodies. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that this message has a spiritual companion. If you have listened to Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam or heard a number of our free teachings, you will have encountered the nation of Amalek. Amalek, descended from Jacob’s twin Esau, is Israel’s mirror-image. When Amalek thrives (like Haman in the Scroll of Esther), the Jewish people suffer. When the Jewish people behave righteously, Amalek suffers. In our time, Amalek is a spiritual rather than a racial identity. We can trace the nation through the Bible as it moves from Esau’s grandson to Agag to Haman and post-Biblical documents from ancient Jewish wisdom centuries prior to the 1900s talk of how Amalek will migrate to Germany.
However, the important point is that an Amalekite can convert to Judaism! A person born with that twisted spiritual DNA can make choices and do things that change his core essence. Indeed, in Israel today descendants of various top WW II Nazi officials live as Torah observant Jews. We do not have to allow our DNA to control us.
Of course, there is a flip side to this as well. As individuals and as a society we can take righteous DNA and corrupt it. Having been bequeathed gifts and blessings by those who came before us, we can alter ourselves until we squander that largesse. When we change our behavior enough, even our physical DNA may no longer match that which we inherited.
Do we improve or damage our physical and spiritual DNA with our actions? That decision is ours to make.
33 thoughts on “Don’t Like Your DNA? Change It!”
Miss Susan, What a wonderful Musing. The subject of DNA and RNA, the expression of genes and genetic material is one that, although it has become easily accessible to the common layperson through various DNA testing and reporting for profit entities, is still not totally understood in the scientific community. I put vary little faith in the pronouncements of these companies as far as ethnicity. It is just too pat to be able to say I am 50% one thing, 24% something else and 78% from another and 4% unknown. ( that adds ou to more that 100%s , but I have seen it on others reports. They purport to say your ancestors come from such and such a region, but if you challenge them with their own documentation they admit that they are only accurate back to 7 generations ( isn’t 7 a significant number in Jewish wisdom?). The only real way to track back through the generations is through maternal mitochondrial DNA. MM DNA changes very little through the generations, and some have asserted that they can track this MM DNA back to the primal mother, EVE or LUCY or whomever.
But the important thing is the EXPRESSION of this genetic material. Does it change? Yes and no. In cancer, or even in non malignant tumors the genetic expression has changed from one with a tightly regulated plan, to a rogue, uncontrolled expression the fails to heed the stop message and overgrows its need,
Abused children can be shown to have certain basic brain structure changes. Dementia patients show plaque along the nervous pathways in the brain. Heart patients, such as myself, show an inherited component in the pathologic changes to my cardiac tissue.
Memory is inserted into the brain and causes demonstrable changes. Are children confirmed to be good or evil by their genetic makeup? Nature or nurture? Experience and teaching changing the expression of certain genes? Back in the bad 1970s there was a concern over those poor individuals whose chromosomes exhibited an xyy phenotype instead of the typical xy or xx for male or female. Studies tended to show a propensity for violence and bad acts with those persons. Newer studies have debunked the old hypothesis.
Adonai Eloheinu ( one of my favorite names for God) has set the system in motion and being all powerful can change it if He wishes.
You are who you are, you have tools that have been given to you, what you become and what you do with the tools is up to you.
KIpling said, ” Rosie O’Grady or the Colonel’s Lady, they are all sisters under the skin.” And so are we, with our various genetic expressions, made in the Image of YHWH and the same under the skin.
Fair sailing for you and Rabbi Lapin.
In my study of neurobiology I learned much about the amazing adaptability of our brains – so much so that when people tried to point to differences in the brains of homosexuals as proof that this aspect was inherited, I understood that likely it was the behavior that caused the changes in the brain and not vise versa. Now this change discovered in DNA with an identical twin who spent extended time in outer space shakes the concept of DNA as an immutable “program” for our beings which allows for adaptability but does not, in itself, ever vary. Clearly even DNA can and will adapt to a new environment. So, is there any solid, sure foundation for our concept of self? Is there any part of our selves that is certain, dependable. Is there a rock on which we can build our self-images or is every concept of self built on shifting sand? Perhaps the deeper spiritual point is that we will not find a solid core of “self” by looking toward ourselves. Our purpose is, rather, to turn our attention outward. We are to care and love others, which requires focusing on them, rather than on ourselves. We change with our environment but we also influence our environment – but only by looking outward. We are told we are created in the image of God. God is our creator, our nurturer, our lover. Perhaps the point is that to found ourselves we must strive to realize the truth of being created in God’s image. The solid foundations we year for lie in what we do and how we care for others, rather than by looking to ourselves.
Very well said, Jennifer.
Does Jewish wisdom teach anything about the literal, physical purity of one’s blood being related to their personal righteousness, or the righteous “DNA-hand” that they may have been dealt by their ancestors? Prophet Ezekiel, speaking for God, pointed out to Jerusalem that although they might have been able to (spiritually, anyway) say, Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite, (16:3), that God passed by and saw them POLLUTED IN THEIR OWN BLOOD (16:6). Yes, I know, always a spiritual interpretation first, but what of physical correlations in the natural? Any ancient Jewish wisdom on the rise of the variety of blood types, when we all descended originally from 1st man Adam, and later Noah? The bones (full of blood/marrow) of a wicked person taint and pollute the ground, according to Job. Surely a measure of purifying the ground itself takes place with the bones/blood/marrow of a righteous person? The blood(s) of Abel cried out to God from the ground, revealing Cain’s sin – blood has a voice that God hears. (The New Testament also speaks of the blood of righteous Abel, as well as in many,, many other places.) If you can (really) alter your DNA by going to outer space, why could you not alter your physical DNA, or your blood, by making righteous changes to your life? (Then again, did NASA mention whether they had injected Scott Kelly with anything before they sent him up?) :/
And to go off the subject a little, “primal instinct” is credited when animals have knowledge of/get terrified of a coming storm, tornado, etc. Of course I know that animals are magnificent creatures of God with senses and perceptions that humans really can’t tune into, but I wonder if “primal instinct” really began with the terror that the animals’ forebears felt with the Great Flood? Anything in ancient Jewish wisdom that sheds some light on all this?
Sorry to deviate a little from the topic, although it is still related. I apologize if any of that sounds far-out or frivolous, it is not meant to be. I just think about things like this…often. (Surely it is far more grounded than believing that this ingenious creation took place by an impersonal “Big Bang”, and that our great-great-great-great-great grandparents were gorillas.) 🙂
Much love to Rabbi Lapin and you both!
Celesta, I am approving this comment right before turning off for Shabbat. I will try to read it more carefully after Shabbat, but I think you are asking some very complex things. Have a lovely weekend.
I would like to know about the DNA of Adam and Chava. I supposed that they had the DNA of Adonai. Do we now in this time, have the DNA of Adam and Chava? Does being in the image of Adonai
means we have HIS DNA? Thank you.
The quick answer, Lisa, is that we can’t anthropomorphize God. We speak as if He has hands etc., but he doesn’t. So the question isn’t really a question. I would think, and I’m speaking off the cuff, the some of Adam and Eve’s DNA is still being passed down.
As regards DNA ethnicity-wise, analysis of DNA will not reveal a sample either comprehensive or representative of all your ancestors: it reveals only what part of their DNA you inherited when Nature shuffled the cards. And your DNA will not match that of your brother even BEFORE you subsist out in space. Ancestry.com has demonstrated that even identical twins, even triplets bear unique DNA ethnic signatures! My own brother and I tested near identical (50+/-2%) for Europe-West. After that, all similarity went out the window. He was high in GB and low in Irish. I am low in GB and high in Irish (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!). I display Scandinavian also, and a smidgeon of Ashkenazic while he does not. I have a trace of Iberian (5%) while he has more (8%). This all sounds to me like the Rabbi’s lesson that God meant for each of us to be unique, even siblings of the same family.
What an interesting mix you are, James. I think there is a difference with identical twins vs. siblings.
Right. You don’t know the half of it! We are documented 1/16 Amerindian (Cherokee) but I turned out assessed as 100.0% European. The Indian did not show up in my brother, either. Just go figure!
Again I can only speak that which is personal. I am historically 1 part Irish, 1 part German and the rest God knows what. However there were three boys in my high school graduating class named Tucker. Two of which were black. Perhaps we were distant cousins. Can we really trust the DNA gurus?
Much of our world is more intermingled than we know.
Bravo, Susan! Brilliant and thought-provoking. Norman Bailey
Thank you, Norman.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I could not help but think of the role of epigenetics regarding Jewish Holacaust survivors and Native American descendants of Indian Residential Boarding School experiments in the U.S. and Canada. In the tribal nations, the effects of that part of our history is referred to as Historical Intergenerational Trauma and blood memory. This is a topic discussed among the tribes as they go through the process of healing. This has been a process because along with epigenetics, there are the generational patterns and impacts of the Indian Residential Boarding Schools that have been passed down. Just as trauma has surfaced in later years in the Jewish Holocaust victims, so too, have many in our tribes experienced this. What happened in outer space is encouraging, as I ponder regarding a part of my DNA – a part of my history…
Roxanne, when we look at ourselves as both spiritual and physical beings it makes perfect sense that, particularly long-term, trauma leaves a mark in a very powerful way that does transmit to our children. The wonderful and awesome aspect is that we can start changing things in a positive direction for our descendants.
WOW-Having walked into AA(suggested by a counselor 27 years ago) and NEVER looked back, my family sees the changes. This post affirms the NEW path I have chosen, so BLESSED I listened to ‘Worth Getting up for’ a long time ago….
Carl, you took and continue to take a courageous stand each day. I’m so glad you are a reader.
I’m always amazed that man thinks he is SOO smart. Learning a a bit of humility may open the door for amazing revelations God makes available to those willing to check their ego at the door.
Kristin, checking our ego at the door is one of life’s biggest challenges in so many areas, isn’t it?
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I’ve always just came to the conclusion that such profound spiritual changes must affect a person’s DNA.
Praise God that nothing is impossible and that even the most hopeless person can change with God’s enablement.
Bless you and your husband.
DNA is not destiny, Robin. If it was we’d be robots, not people.
This is a really interesting lesson as we prepare for Passover. Consider that to begin with, Pharoah hardened his heart against the Sovereign Lord’s command to let His people go that they might worship Him. Pharoah continued hardening his heart so long that eventually the ability to harden or soften his own heart was taken from him and from that time forward, the Sovereign Lord himself hardened Pharoah’s heart. The result—all the “gods” of Egypt, up to Pharoah himself were shown to be powerless before the Sovereign Lord and Egypt itself was almost totally destroyed. And the Sovereign Lord freed His People to go forth and worship Him.
What a timely lesson, Joyce.
I really enjoyed this musing! What a great reminder that we can take control and change our own destiny regardless of what hand we felt we were dealt, or where we fall in the family dynamic. Thanks Susan!
We can certainly try, Susan!
Sometimes I just want to SCREAM to the High Heavens about those who are wont to proclaim God is wrong….
He is never wrong, never late, never uninterested
HE is (I am)
Oh how sad, that so many deny Him
Glad to hear from you, Karen.
HaHa, astonishing! I read about this astronaut study this morning and was about to write to Rabbi Lapin about it. It did seem to make DNA less of a determinant than it is often presented to be. But parts of the article, and some reader comments, seemed to distinguish between the DNA foundation and “gene expressions” – some of which reverted over a few months. (It must be said that I have basically no understanding what my previous sentence means!) So I held off writing my thoughts. That we have free will is beyond doubt, but the extent to which this brilliant astronaut twin study helps us to understand DNA’s power probably needs more thought and research.
Your instincts were spot on–this is definitely a story we’d want to explore and understand. We’ll keep on it and I’ll probably discuss it on the podcast in a few weeks.
Shabbat shalom to you
I already read one article explaining that most news reports were not understanding what was really being reported, David. That’s why there was the sentence about epigenetics and gene expression. Whatever the full story is, we can affect our bodies with our behavior.
So Deep and Beautiful…hope everyone who reads this will understand. I pray for all of mankind’s spiritual DNA. Amen
Thanks for writing, Kevin.
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