Fight or Fall

For how long must you leave a beautiful garden abandoned before it reverts to jungle?  One summer will show the deterioration well under way and within five years it will be hard to discern that any manicured garden was ever tended there.

For how long must you leave a bustling city abandoned before it becomes overgrown ruins?  The Scientific American calculated that within four hundred years the buildings and bridges will fall, the tunnels and subways will collapse and from the air it will be virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding jungle.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that we need to be waging a constant battle in order to maintain standards.  Consider these two Biblical discussions regarding the soldier.

In one place we read a sad account of a soldier, after the battle is over, desiring a woman from the enemy camp.  And God says, “Well, I kind of understand you want her, so here’s how you should proceed”.

When you go forth in war against your enemies, and the Lord your God has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her, that you would have her as your wife; then you shall bring her home to your house….
(Deuteronomy 21:10-12)

We also read a second account describing the elevated and lofty principles demanded from the soldier.

When you go out to make war against your enemies, then keep yourself from every wicked thing.  If there is among you any man, who is not clean…then shall he go out of the camp…You shall have a place also outside the camp, where you shall go out to it [to relieve yourself]  And you shall have a spade among your weapons; and it shall be, when you will relieve yourself outside, you shall dig with it, and shall turn back and cover your excrement; for the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to save you, and to give your enemies before you; therefore shall your camp be holy; that he should see no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you.
(Deuteronomy 23:10-15)

This focus on hygiene sends a message that even being in the midst of battle doesn’t grant permission to behave in an animal-like fashion for even the most physical of activities.

How can God demand that men remember that they are not animals even while at war but then accept, after the battle is over, they won’t be able to ignore the pull of a beautiful captive?

While the battle is still raging, maintaining a high level of conduct is part of that struggle. When the battle is over and one ceases the fight, demoralization sets in.  In other words, there is a metaphorical level to this discussion.  Not only are we being taught about actual, real-life military combat, but we are also learning how we human beings work.  As long as we expend effort and demand ever more of ourselves, we thrive.  When we quit the fight and tell ourselves that it is time to relax, we often find ourselves in moral peril.

Military leaders know that their troops are most vulnerable to a decline in morale once the battle or the rigorous training is over.  Many of us have experienced behaving in a way on vacation that we would not condone while in the middle of our regular lives where we fight for family and livelihood on a daily basis.

The idea is best captured by King Solomon when he wrote:

To the wise the way of life leads upward, that he may depart from doom below.
(Proverbs 15:24)

In other words, the wise always keeps climbing upwards. That is the only way to avoid the alternative, which is decline and deterioration.

Whether we have a garden, a city, a family or a business project, we are either improving it or it is deteriorating.  If we stop gardening, the garden doesn’t retain its splendor.  Instead it begins its decline toward jungle the very moment we cease the struggle.  That is how the world REALLY works.


12 thoughts on “Fight or Fall”

  1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    We appreciate you writing, Jose,
    Your idea of the garden as a metaphor for our lives is beautiful. Thanks so much. I hope your children fully appreciate their father. But the truth is we all fail to fully appreciate our parents until it’s too late.

  2. Thank You Rabbi I shared this topic with my children. I told them they need to always improve in themselves. I had them look outside at our garden and I said ” take a look at this garden you see how messy it is, this garden needs improvement. Your life is like a garden, we have to improve it or it will get ugly and die.” Conviction kicked in after I read this post I now look at my garden in a different perspective. It’s a resemblence of how I’m treating life.

  3. Great thoughts expressed. Always pepping us up with your wisdom derived from the word of God. I am encouraged. Bless you Rabbi Lapin.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Exactly Carl–
      And that lovely wife of yours does not want to see you sitting around in the rocker on the porch all day. Women don’t do well with ambitionless men.

  4. Yep, I used to refer to a few “consider the ant” category people as “entropy personified”. Well, maybe not even “consider the ant”, but they just hadn’t grasped the fact that everything generally falls to pieces if you don’t attack everything with fervor daily. Just to maintain! Not even to advance! Someone I knew once said, “Any dead fish can float downstream” (as opposed to the leaping, valiant salmon who makes it upstream [of course, just to be eaten by the hungry grizzly bear, but THAT wasn’t part of the illustration]). I am sure we can all find areas in our lives where we are just floating downstream and maybe can HEED THE WARNINGS GOD HAS SO WISELY LEFT TO US AND CHANGE OUR WAYS!!!! Thank you as always for a GREAT thought tool! I gave an earlier edition of Thought Tools out to the men at my church on a previous Christmas; I plan to do it again with your most recent edition too. Great gift! HEY YOU JUST GOT A FREE COMMERCIAL!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for the commercial, Celesta–
      and word of mouth from happy customers and clients is the very best commercial there is. Yes, it is a painful reality to confront but it takes real effort just to avoid falling back. I still remember realizing this as a boy. I was miserable about it for days.

  5. Watched you on the Glen Beck program and admire what you and your wife are doing as far as informing us on the Jewish culture. It’s a breath of fresh air! Thank you!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Gigi–
      Our mission is always making ancient Jewish wisdom accessible to everyone in the life enhancing areas of family, faith, friendships, and finances. I always greatly enjoy being with Glenn. He’s an honest man and a good friend.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Paul
      connection and communication are exciting and can be creative. That’s why our brains get flooded with dopamine when our phone rings or someone connects with us even electronically.

Comments are closed.

Shopping Cart