I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – Not!

The Second Continental Congress, acting as the national government of what was soon to become these United States, met in Baltimore from December 1776 until February 1777.  During this time, Baltimore was the largest seaport through which most of the young country’s imports and exports moved.  It wasn’t until the 1830s that New York supplanted Baltimore. 

What was responsible for New York replacing Baltimore as the largest trading city in the country?  In my view it was nothing but a great big ditch about forty feet wide and four feet deep that stretched 363 miles from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo on Lake Erie.

It was the largest, most daunting and most expensive engineering project imaginable. Tens of thousands of men dug it with their picks and shovels.  The earth was moved by horses pulling primitive equipment.  The Erie Canal took eight grueling years of men relentlessly driving through limestone mountains and cutting through dense forest.  Rocks and tree stumps were blown up with black powder since dynamite would not be invented for another forty years.  It rose 600 feet from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes necessitating the construction of 48 magnificent stone locks to raise and lower boats.

The canal was completed in 1825 and began carrying passengers and cargo across New York State at a fraction of the cost of wagons.  The economy of New York grew meteorically as it rapidly became the busiest seaport in the country.

Though the Erie Canal was the defining engineering project of the 19th century, it was not the end but the beginning of grand projects in America.  Railroads quickly followed. The 20th century saw great bridges like the Golden Gate, the George Washington, and the Verrazano.  That century saw Americans building the world’s tallest buildings, the biggest dams, and the finest Interstate Highway system in the world.

Then America started sliding down the sordid slope of secularism. Grand construction ceased.  Is this a coincidence?  I don’t think so. 

Consider these two conflicting verses written by King David:

…the earth and all that fills it is the Lord’s…
(Psalms 24:1)

The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; but He has given the earth to humans.
(Psalms 115:16)

Well, which is it?  The earth and all in it belong to God or else He gave the earth to humans.  Either the earth is His or it is ours.  It can’t be both.

Or can it?  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that King David was not inconsistent nor did he write Psalm 115 after forgetting what he wrote in Psalm 24.  He was illuminating a timeless truth vitally necessary for understanding how the world REALLY works.

King David was explaining that to begin with, the entire earth and all it contains belongs to God.  However, if we, His children, trust Him, bless and thank Him, then he gives the earth to us.  Deep down, within the hidden recesses of our collective cultural souls, we recognize that if our relationship with God is strong and loving, we have a right to the earth.  We have a right to carve canals through its forests and mountains; we have a right to throw bridges across its gorges, gullies, and waterways.  We have a right to dam up the mighty rivers to provide food and power to great cities.  We have a right to sculpt highways across its landscapes.

However, should we reject Him and embrace a grotesque worldview that attempts to make us masters of the universe, paradoxically, masters is exactly what we don’t become.  Instead, we rightfully recognize that the earth and all that fills it has not been given to us.  Consequently, we cease all creative activities that improve a property. After all, these are typically performed only by owners, not the tenants or squatters that we have made ourselves.

Taking our place are countries in Asia and Africa, building the grand projects that improve the lives of millions.  Those bridges, buildings, dams and roads are, for the most part, being built in countries whose populations are becoming more and more Bible-centric.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Your life, like mine, is punctuated by grand projects.  Some of these concern your home, family, marriage or child-raising.  Other grand projects you’re working on involve making money and developing a business or career.  Just like the grand projects of nations, yours are also fueled by faith and carried on conviction.  The forces that sap the will of nations and individuals are not new. I pray that Thought Tools bring you encouragement and direction. 


21 thoughts on “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – Not!”

  1. “Deep down, within the hidden recesses of our collective cultural souls, we recognize that if our relationship with God is strong and loving, we have a right to the earth.” – Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    This is the very opposite of what the, “Climate Change or Global Warming,” alarmists or pushers have been teaching in the public schools, universities, municipalities, and governments.

    It’s disturbing to ponder the great wealth being used to push this blather on innocent people. It’s no wonder many major American cities and politically Democrat strongholds with Republican support are failing to take care of the people that live in them. Some examples include: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Houston, and many more. It’s sad.

    There is hope in humanity to rebound, and we have much work to accomplish thankfully.

  2. Dear Rabbi,
    It is heartening to read your comment: ” Taking our place are countries in Asia and Africa, building the grand projects that improve the lives of millions. Those bridges, buildings, dams and roads are, for the most part, being built in countries whose populations are becoming more and more Bible-centric. A coincidence? I don’t think so.” At the same time, it is very disheartening to observe that our country is so obsessed with kicking God out of all society; a decision, obviously, not without it’s own set of very dire consequences. It is most certainly a faith-building effort to remain focused on God’s sovereignty. Be blessed.

  3. Dear Rabbi,
    I would love to hear if you have any thoughts on President Trump’s strong, but as of yet mostly unrealized, desire to steel up our countries infrastructure. Do you see any tie in with this thought tool?

  4. BOO HOO!!! 🙁 🙁 🙁

    Well thank you for the VALUED feedback, and a great Thought Tool!!!

  5. Hello Rabbi,
    If man is a faithful under-steward for the LORD over what is really HIS Creation, then the LORD can trust Him, allow Him, inspire Him, to be under-ruler for Him. Isn’t that basically what 1st man Adam was supposed to have done in the Garden, when God commissioned him to “dress it and keep it”? So here’s a thought that just popped into my mind while I was typing this, any chance that “ADAM”‘s name should have originally been/could still be somewhat related to “ADON” (not sure if spelling roots right)? Like, if Adam had leaned on the essence of “Nun” – “N”, it would have been like the wriggling fish with the vibrant life in it, aka like a so”N”, a be”N”, a builder of the family name, hence he could have remained more of an “ADON” who would have been like a little “lord” to rule over that which God had entrusted him? But instead he chose that dusty nature, the lower essence out of the earth from which he had been created, the flesh-and-blood empowered side of him, hence keeping the character of only an “ADAM”, someone formed from the earth and having mortal blood running through his veins? (And then that letter “M” represents water for one thing, right? So…”unstable as water, thou shalt not excel”… any parallels?) Okay, I hope I don’t regret writing this post, seems as though there could be a connection, but I can look back and see some times that I should have kept my thoughts to myself… 🙂 🙂 🙂 If ADAM had been obedient to God’s ways to begin with, he would have proven worthy to retain his position in the Garden – he’d’ve been more of an “ADON” (“lord”). Instead he caved for whatever reason, stayed an “ADAM” made from clay, and now here we all is, born outside the Garden, having to come back into full relationship with God and His ways, so that we can (among other things) be able to excel and accomplish in a godly manner, from the right spiritual basis!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Celesta–
      I am so glad you did not keep your thoughts to yourself in this instance. You are being so thoughtful and creative. However, unfortunately, there is no etymological link in the Lord’s language between Adam and ADON. I see where you are trying to go, though. Very interesting.

  6. Could the thirst for wealth and power and personal aggrandizement that embodies our polititions at all levels of government have anything to do with our cities and infrastructure that are falling down around our ears?
    Just wondering.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      It’s mostly that politicians really enjoy spending your money on exciting things rather than on maintenance. Have you never driven by a house with peeling paint, overgrown grass and weeds, and leaking gutters but which has a late model car parked in the driveway. Sometimes even a boat or trailer. It takes integrity and goodness to take care of things you have. Yet spending money on consumer toys is just more fun than spending money on painting your house and mowing your lawn. Same with the politicians who run cities. It’s more fun and also more rewarding to spend your money on their pensions and benefits, their raises and their junkets. It’s more fun and more rewarding to spend your money hiring their pals to do unnecessary work but who’ll help keep them in power. Much more fun than spending money on fixing broken stuff.

  7. Neweverymoment, Deb:
    I grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland. Twice a year, we took the ferry from Matapeake to Sandy
    Point as the way to get to Baltimore for shopping. Fun for kids, great hot dogs! We more or less watched the building of the great Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I probably wouldn’t recognize Baltimore today, because of what one might refer to as secular fundamentalism. People try to remove God and proceed with the rest, and it never works. Sometimes it feels as if we are reliving bits of the Old (Hebrew) Testament. “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered.” (Ps. 68:1)
    P.S. Susan, I LOVE “Dearie Me!” It seems to break up the seriousness. For variety you might consider “Bullfrogs!”

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Blistering Bullfrogs! Deb,
      you actually watched them build the Chesapeake Bay Bridge! How wonderful. No more projects like that being built under the regime of secular fundamentalism.

  8. Thank you for your perspective Rabbi. It is always thought provoking, useful and informative.

    May G-d Bless You & Yours,

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Michael-
      much appreciated. Not easy to see how a deteriorated spiritual perspective can result in a culture no longer believing in itself sufficiently to build for tomorrow.

  9. The only thing that humans own is agency. Freedom to choose good or choose evil. Everything else belongs to the Creator.

  10. Dear Rabbi
    Maybe I am not feeling positive, however, at the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder, what if God so chooses to allow man to create a nuclear war which would destroy everything in/on the earth?
    Regards and thanks for your efforts,

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Relax, Tony,
      That hasn’t happened yet. So far, nuclear power is freeing mankind from drudgery. Be happy.

  11. Shalom Rabbi. its true that some of the grand projects you mentioned are happening in Africa and Asia, what i also know is some of these nations in Middle East are not Jewish/christian Nations. What brings about such development if its the LIGHT of the WORD that makes nations great.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Martin-
      Excellent question. Answer: They are not spiritually observing the faith but they have entirely adopted the systems, protocols, values, and education that Biblical faith produced in the west. Since the late 19th century, banks and bathrooms in Beijing, Bangkok, and Bombay started resembling banks and bathrooms in Boston, Birmingham, and Bristol. They sent their students to the west who then returned home and built schools and universities modeled on our western system. They imitated the currency stability and capital markets of the west. Eventually, they built huge engineering firms with the capability to build immense projects. And here we are.

Comments are closed.

Shopping Cart