Hannah is a full-time mom working strenuously, with her husband’s partnership, to raise five rambunctious (but delightful) children. Sometimes, the daily pressures threaten to overwhelm her, and she finds herself snapping shrewishly at her family.
Jake recently launched his own small business. He is hoping soon to marry his girlfriend, whose family is equally enthusiastic about the pending union. However, Jake sabotages his success by procrastination and by allowing unimportant distractions to derail him.
Henry, a middle-aged, senior level executive suspects he is losing the respect of his professional associates, and is increasingly estranged from his wife. He often ends his day feeling depressed and miserable.
Hannah, Jake, and Henry all suffer from exactly the same problem and Scripture provides the prescription.
A river flows out from Eden to water the Garden,
and from there it is divided and becomes four headwaters.
Unfortunately maps prove that no such arrangement of waterways ever existed. Another problem: If the purpose of the river is to “water the Garden,” it ought to flow into Eden rather than out from Eden.
Clearly there must be more to this story than improbable geography. Ancient Jewish wisdom helps by showing how the main river represents the human yearning to achieve our best life. The river flowing from Eden makes it possible for us to swim back upstream to our own personal Eden.
This ‘waterway to wonderful results’ comprises four basic rivers representing our four basic drives. Each needs to be developed and focused if we are to head towards Eden.
Why four basic drives? We possess both physical and spiritual needs and the world can provide us with both physical and spiritual commodities. Combined, that makes four drives. Here they are with examples of how each drive is fulfilled.
- What I need physically and the world supplies physically: food, water, shelter
- What I need physically and the world supplies spiritually: friendship, connection, love, and esteem of others
- What I need spiritually and the world supplies physically: a sense of security, beauty and culture
- What I need spiritually and the world supplies spiritually: a connection with God, gaining of wisdom
In other words, the four Biblical rivers that lead us to the main canal of contentment represent four categories of human need. Our desires and motivations come from our being both physical and spiritual creatures operating in a world that supplies both physical and spiritual commodities.
Someone who ignores category 1 leaving himself and his family hungry and cold while vigorously advancing himself in category 4 would be viewed as foolish and perhaps even evil. Similarly, someone single-mindedly increasing one’s bank account while ignoring human relationships is sheer folly.
Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that as complex beings, people need to experience growth and progress in each of these four categories if they are to live purposeful, successful, and fulfilling lives.
We all know that we need food, water and shelter. However, categories 2, 3, and 4 are less blatantly obvious and more easily ignored. In the same way that balance is important in diet, exercise and investment portfolios, balance is equally important in healthily developing our life blueprint.
This Biblical model brings into our lives the ability to balance our existence. This balance is critical. For instance, my very capacity to earn money or relate to my spouse and children will be diminished if I do not also work at gaining wisdom and spiritual connection at the same time. Think of it as a balanced diet.
Hannah, Jake, and Henry need to study the rivers of Genesis. They should work on identifying the categories they are neglecting. Their unhappiness will start to dispel once they begin repair work.
Looking at Scripture through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom provides practical life lessons such as this one. Some lessons spring from the very language in which God gave the Bible – Hebrew. Understanding the hidden meaning behind words such as truth, work, wealth and child allows you to access greater blessings in those areas. We explore 29 words in Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language to invite you to share in the discovery.
This week’s Susan’s Musings: Charlie Brown Republicans
Warning: This Musing is controversial and may cause offense. I’d much rather it leads to action or, at least, discussion.
I spent much of the last presidential cycle screaming (mostly silently, but always passionately) with frustration at Mitt Romney. More than once, I came close to tears trying to convince one of his most ardent supporters that the candidate was losing a completely winnable contest.
As I recall, only once during a long, draining and discouraging primary cycle, did I want to stand up and cheer… READ MORE
Where is this week’s Ask the Rabbi question? We are freshening up our look and making some changes! Ask the Rabbi is getting its own mailing. Look for it in your mailbox this Thursday night.