My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Shorties

Shorty*: “World is My Own and I have Made Myself”— A Tale of Two Cultures

Prophet Ezekiel is prophesying on doomsday destiny of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on doomsday destiny of Egypt’s ego-centered culture, of which Pharaoh is top representative. Ezekiel quotes the life-philosophy of that culture:

Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great crocodile who couches within the midst of his streams, who has said “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).

What is the message conveyed by the prophet?

Yeor is biblical Hebrew for the Nile river, source of life that flows throughout Egypt and has enabled, throughout history, flourishing Egyptian civilization and human habitation, even though rain is rare in this geographical region. There is seemingly no need in this region for the grace of the Divine to live (have water). The constantly flowing Nile provides that commodity aplenty throughout the year and no prayer to the Divine for life-giving rain is required. The immediate consequence is this: “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).

Not surprisingly, the life-giving Yeor had been raised by ancient Egyptians to the level of Deity, as told to us by historians of ancient Egypt. Prophet Ezekiel succinctly summarizes the underlying philosophy of the supreme being of Egypt, King Pharaoh: Not only has he raised himself to the level of Deity (“I produced myself”) but he has also made the world in which he lived, the Nile river (“the world of the great crocodile”) his own (“Yeor is my own”). Contrast this with the prevailing Scripture principle: “How manifold are thy works, O Jehovah, in wisdom have you made them all” (Psalms 104:24).

The Land of Israel is diametrically at odds with the Land of Egypt. And the Torah finds it necessary to explicitly state the essential difference in the physical reality encountered by human beings living in the two regions:

For the land, into which thou go to possess it, is unlike the land of Egypt… where you sow thy seed and water it with thy foot, as in a garden of vegetables; The land, which you transit into to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, by rain of heaven would thou drink water” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12).

Two regions, naturally (but not necessarily) leading to two cultures: One culture expressing no faith in the Divine (“I have produced myself”) or in Divine intervention (“World is my own”); Another based on inherent faith in the Divine and in Divine intervention.

The story of Pharaoh is not singular in the Bible. In fact, its underlying theme resurfaces in three different variations (as will be expounded soon). The background “story” differs between variations. Yet, the underlying theme remains the same, and this same theme has re-surfaced as a major guiding principle in today’s prevailing culture, contrary to what a simple fact-finding exploration might have taught us.

After nearly five hundred years of modern science (starting with its initiators, like Copernicus (1473-1543), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727)), and accompanied by advances in technology that have immensely improved our well-being (and occasionally also our “bad-being”), humankind has not moved one iota closer to solving the fundamental mysteries of human existence on Earth, mysteries that confront us every single day of our lives:

* Why are we here?

* Where have we come from and where are we going to (if at all)?

* Why does the world exist?

* How has the universe come into being out of nothing?

* Is there God?

Yet, advances in science and technology (modern day “eating of the fruit of knowledge”) have blinded us to this grim reality and hid it from our vision. Consequently, we find ourselves today unknowingly in the same state-of-mind as were Adam and Eve, as were the builders of the Tower of Babel, as was Pharaoh, king of Egypt:

* Adam and Eve wished to eat of the fruit of knowledge to be Elohim-like (knowing law of nature, thereby controlling nature); Yet they ignored the true name of God, Jehovah-Elohim, which conveys the double-faceted leadership of the Divine in our world. The narrator of the story of the Forbidden Fruit repeats this double-name no less than eleven times, using no other name for the Divine; Yet Eve and the Serpent relate only to Elohim. For not desiring at all to be also Jehovah-like, Adam and Eve were doomed to be expelled from the Garden of Eden, with the Serpent, which can never advance in a straight-line, becoming their permanent escort;

* The people of the city of Babel, led by Nimrod (literally meaning “Let us rebel”; Genesis 10:9-10), have just developed new technologies to rule nature and have proven them viable: “And they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly; And they had brick for stone and slime had they for mortar” (Genesis 11:2). Once the people of Babel have become aware of their newly acquired technological capabilities, allowing control of nature, the immediate aftermath of this realization is not unlike modern day response to current-day scientific and technological advances: “Let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches Heaven” (Genesis 11:4);

* Pharaoh: “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).

Three biblical stories telling same story in three varieties. They all convey same human condition in which we find ourselves today (only to the extreme), resulting in an identical response:

“World is My Own and I have Made Myself”


*Shorty is a short post


Shorty*: Anger — Best Opportunity to Transition from “I-It” to “I-Thou”

Introspection of what is occurring within us as we become angry with one we care about delivers best possible opportunity to move from perceiving others as “It” to a corrected perception as “Thou”; Moving from perceiving the not-me as “Ego-Other” to a corrected perception as “Non-Ego Other“.

Some terms in the opening paragraph needs explanation and for that I relate to the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965 ), whose philosophy revolves around two fundamental concepts describing how one may relate to all that surround him/her: “You” (Ata/At) and “That One” (Ha-Laz); Or, in Buber’s terminology, two types of relationships between “I” and the external world:

I-Thou” and “I-It”.

Since my twin concepts, “Ego-Other” and “Non-Ego Other”, somewhat overlap with those of Buber, I would first explain the two pairs of concepts and then relate to how extremely instrumental they are regarding Tikun (“Correction”), achievable when we become angry with someone we care about; And then, by extension, the Tikun that may prevail in all of our relations with other human beings, including perhaps even those that we “do not so much care about”, namely, total strangers.

Buber distinguishes between two modes of relating to the world around us—  “You” and “That One” (in Buber’s parlance, “Thou” and “It”), and he had repeated this distinction on numerous occasions. To understand it more deeply perhaps it is best to quote from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource):

Martin Buber “is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou” and “I-It” modes of existence…In his later essays, he defines man as the being who faces an “other” and constructs a world from the dual acts of distancing and relating.”  Buber’s philosophy “is based on a distinction between two word-pairs that designate two basic modes of existence: “I-Thou” (Ich-Du) and “I-It” (Ich-Es). The “I-Thou” relation is the pure encounter of one’s whole unique entity with another in such a way that the other is known without being subsumed under a universal. Not yet subject to classification or limitation, the “Thou” is not reducible to spatial or temporal characteristics. In contrast to this, the “I-It” relation is driven by categories of “same” and “different” and focuses on universal definition. An “I-It” relation experiences a detached thing, fixed in space and time, while an “I-Thou” relation participates in the dynamic, living process of an “other”… Buber characterizes “I-Thou” relations as “dialogical” and “I-It” relations as “monological.” In his 1929 essay “Dialogue,” Buber explains that monologue is not just a turning away from the other but also a turning back on oneself (Rückbiegung). To perceive the other as an “It” is to take others as classified and hence predictable and manipulable, objects that exist only as part of one’s own experiences. In contrast, in an “I-Thou” relation both participants exist as polarities of relation, whose center lies in the between (Zwischen).”

The concept of the dual relations, “I-Thou” versus “I-It”, is not much different from the dual concept introduced by me in explaining the underlying Five Principles of the Ten Commandments: A “Non-Ego Other” and an “Ego-Other”. Therein I wrote, explaining the meaning of these complementary terms (as used throughout the post):

“To understand the concept of “Non-Ego Other”, it is perhaps best to define the opposite. An “Ego other” is a human being whom one considers an extension of his/her own ego. The epitome for an “Ego other” is a slave. However, “Ego other” may appear in more obscure forms, where the potential exists, like a personal assistant, a subordinate (at work), one’s own child or a spouse. All forms of “Ego other” are morally wrong.”

To merge together the above two definitions of the dual-relation that exists in all forms of our relating to the outside world (human beings included), we summarize it as follows:

  • One may relate to another human being as equal to one’s own self. In that case, you perceive the other as whole human being, “Thou” or “Non-Ego Other”, who is deserving of all privileges deemed as inalienable rights to your own self. Two chief consequences of that relationship are “Love thy neighbor as yourself” and “Do not do unto others that which is hateful to you”;
  • Or one may alternatively relate to another human being as extension of the ego in the sense that, as we use our hands and legs and voice and other parts of the body to achieve various goals that satisfy the ego, we likewise use other human beings for same purpose. The “Ego-Other” then becomes part of the inventory of means and ways available to the ego to achieve its goals. In that relationship, the “I” is detached from “You”, who then becomes “It”; And the “Non-Ego Other” becomes an ”Ego-Other”.

The best time to witness the two relations co-exist, co-habituate though in the process of replacing one by the other, is when we become angry with one we care about. This is the best time, indeed an opportunity, to realize the difference between “You” and “It”, “Non-Ego Other” vs. “Ego-Other”, so that we may practice, from within ourselves, to eliminate, in each pair, the latter for the former.

What happens to us when we become angry with someone we care about?

First: Detachment. We emotionally detach ourselves from our partner to an “I-You” dialogue so that a replacement, an “I-It” monologue, takes its place. Once detachment is achieved, a process characteristic to “I-It” relation starts: We label, we classify, we become alienated from the “It” while comparing it to other “It”s, and we start considering means and ways to achieve the ego’s objectives against the one who, just a moment prior, has served as “You” in an “I-You” dialogue. The partner to that dialogue, the former “Non-Ego Other”, suddenly becomes an “Ego-Other”, a subject to the ego’s desires through which to achieve its goals (probably of an aggressive nature).

Needless to assert, once again, that a Tikun starts to take place when we eliminate from our inventory of modes of relating to others the “You-It” relationship, the “Ego-Other” perception of our partner to communication and the subject to our responses; And the Tikun is completed once we revoke “I-You” relations with all living entities surrounding us so that only “I-You” relation exists; and only a “Non-Ego Other” is experienced by us in relating to others, and in determining our responses to all forms of communication received by us.

Experiencing the transformation that takes place within ourselves as we transition from a state of “I-You” to a state of “I-It”, from feeling equal to the* “Non-Ego Other” to experiencing the other as an* “Ego Other” (a legitimate target for the ego’s goals), this experience constitutes best opportunity for a personal transformation.

And that transformation may be achieved when, and if, we witness with wide-open eyes the two sorts of relations, the “I-Thou” and the “I-It”, as within ourselves the latter suddenly start replacing the former when we suddenly become angry.


* A widely-known joke about British males is that when British husbands relate to their wives they would utter “The wife”, but otherwise it is “My car”. An excellent opportunity for Tikun..

I do not take responsibility for the authenticity and truth of that joke. However, I can personally bear witness for some grain of truth in it as I once realized, watching on TV an interview with a Royal Navy officer that had served far away from home and asked what he missed most…


*Shorty is a short post

General Shorties

Shorty*: “Desert” as Epitome for a Potential Culture of Hatred

The culture of the desert is perhaps the best allegory for the conditions that may ultimately lead to the development of a culture of hatred in human society. The ego operates in two modes:

* Expressing free will (with all its variants);

* Realizing (implementing) free will.

Among others, emotions are an expression of free will. Having the potential to control our emotions by struggling with them and possibly modify them, emotions are part and parcel of the repository of modes by which free will expresses itself. Two potentially devastating expressions of free will are hatred and anger.

Where do they originate?

Anger has been the subject of much discourse in Jewish and non-Jewish scholarship (within science or otherwise), and it seems to be generally accepted that anger is the ego’s major response to blocking/ignoring free will in its two modes of operandi:

  • When the ego is obstructed in expressing its free will, either by threat of severe penalty or by rejection by fellow human beings. Typical examples are when the ego believes certain knowledge about reality to be true and significant others reject it as false; or when one’s ego, with all varieties of its expressions, is ignored (by display of indifference);
  • When the ego is obstructed in accomplishing its free will, for example, when a certain repair is required (within ourselves or outwardly) and the ego is incapable of accomplishing this repair (Tikun in Hebrew).

Controlling pride is conducive to controlling anger.

Where does hatred originate?

While hatred obviously may be associated with anger, or follow anger, it is a distinct and separate emotion that may express itself detached from any feeling of anger. To understand hatred, I believe that one needs go no farther than understanding the fundamental meaning of “Desert” as epitome for separation (lack of communication) and the resultant hatred.

Why is “Desert” the epitome for a potential culture of hatred?

Living in “Desert” implies living in separate communities, extremely isolated from one another due to harsh nature conditions. In such circumstances, daily communication between communities is rare and hard to come by. This generates a separation between “Us” and “Them”, between “Us” and “Not us” fellow human beings affiliated to “Not us” communities. In an environment of extreme isolation between communities, a sense of suspicion towards the “others”, the “Not us”, is rampant. Lack of daily communication between isolated communities tends to form a natural sense of suspicion and distrust between “Us” and “Them”, a remnant of which we may still see nowadays in the common gesture of hugging each other upon meeting. This gesture, already referred to in Genesis (29:13), originally expressed a fundamental sense of distrust where the hug aimed at finding out whether the seemingly amiable person, who has just arrived to the “Us community”, carried a hidden sword at his back. The hug thus became a sort of ancient extreme vetting, to borrow a modern-day term.

In such an environment of isolation and hostile nature conditions, where lack of daily communication between isolated communities tends to create a culture of suspicion and distrust towards the “Not us”, the path is short to a potential culture of hatred. The ego’s path to acknowledging, being aware of, respecting and accommodating free-wills of “Not us”, this path is blocked. Lack of daily communication may ultimately lead to unrestrained hatred towards the “Other”, embedded in a potential culture of hatred.

The Hebrew language fully support this interpretation for the source of hatred:

  • Mount Sinai, where Torah was given to the ancient Israelites, has in Hebrew a connotation of hatred (Sinah in Hebrew). This triggered the following assertion by a Jewish rabbi: “Why Mount Sinai? that this is where hatred descended (unto the world)” (Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Shabbat, Ch. 9).
  • Probably not coincidentally, Hebrew for “Other” (Acher) and “Back” (Achor), share the same root in Hebrew. Since Achor is that part of the body that one can see only when the face cannot be seen, the Hebrew language links “back” to “other” and denotes the latter— Acher, namely, the one whose “face” (Panim, written like Pnim, “inside”) cannot be accessed (probably due to lack of communication).

In recent years, communication between human beings, unhindered by “Desert” conditions, has become a major platform for reducing hatred worldwide. One can now more fully appreciate the major shift taking place in human history with the advent of modern day easily accessible personal communication. This development has served to attain a major objective in the evolution of the human species on Earth: Reducing hatred originating in “Desert” due to lack of communication, and allowing fellow human beings accessing each other and consequently acknowledging each other’s own free wills.

Does living in “Desert”, in separation between “we” and “them”, necessarily lead to cultures of hatred, such as currently witnessed in various parts of the world where communities do actually dwell in desert?

Not necessarily. Observe what Rabbi Akiva (50-132) considered as the departure point for studying the whole of Torah: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, this is the essence of Torah; all else is interpretation”. This culture of love combined with justice and righteousness had originally formed, contrary to human nature, in “Desert” conditions, literally in the desert, in the Sinai desert.

A major and important lesson may be learned:

Communities separated by “Desert” are not doomed to live in a culture of hatred. With today’s available communication, overcoming a culture of hatred and modifying it in a fundamental way is a relatively easily accessible option. Carriers of cultures of hatred, leaders of cultures of hatred, only need to summon up their free will to apply the much-needed transformation so that “Desert”, as a way of living, may once and for all be eradicated from the face of the earth.

*Shorty is a short post


Shorty*: The Human Desire to be like God

At the core of all human endeavors is the burning desire to be like God. The desire is already expressed in the third chapter of Genesis:  “For God knows that on the day you eat of it” (of the Fruit of Knowledge) “then your eyes shall be opened and you shall be as God..” (Genesis 3:5).

But what does it mean to be like God?

The serpent expresses it explicitly: “You shall be like Elohim, knowing good and bad” (Genesis 3:5)  (Elohim is Hebrew for God as the creator).

Jewish prophets have incessantly preached differently:

“I am Jehovah speaking righteousness, I declare things that are right” (Isaiah 45:19) (Jehovah is Hebrew for God as source of morality and virtues).

Human history is the tale of nations and individuals seeking to be as powerful as Elohim via dominating resources (whether of knowledge, of humans beings (erroneously perceived as resource) or of physical properties).

Human history is also a tale of nations and individuals ignoring the message of the Jewish prophets that to be like God also means to be like Jehovah

(all the while concurrently harming the carriers of this inconvenient message).


* A “Shorty” is a newly invented word for a new idea or thought, expressed as shortly as possible..