Tuesday, 22 July 2008

A Lesson in Unity - Learning From Animals


The Baal Shem Tov says we can learn from everything we see and hear. There’s a message in it all. The Torah teaches that were it not for the Torah, we would have to learn from animals. Imagine we human beings with all our greatness and intelligence learning from animals… from an ant (industry), from a cat (modesty), from a stork (kindness to it’s own)…?

What of lions, buffalo and crocodiles?!

For those who enjoy movies over books, skip directly to the first video and then come back and read this – as it includes more than the video.

For those who enjoy the suspense of using one’s own creative abilities in visualizing an event taking place, read this first – and then watch the first video.

Imagine the scene for just a moment. Out in the veld (a South African word referring to the wide open rural spaces – a place of nature, grasses, shrubbery and trees.)

A herd of buffalo enjoying nature, ready to take a bath (perhaps) in the river nearby – or looking for some herbage to eat. On the other side of this scene, powerful lionesses in need of food – and it’s not grass that they are interested in. The more passive, although powerful buffalo continue their walk. One seems to lead the herd investigating if everything is okay to continue the journey. Meanwhile, a lioness crouches with her pride of lionesses nearby – ready to jump into action, perhaps lucky enough to grab some “food.” But the buffalo suspects something, turns around in haste, and begins running. The entire herd pick up that there is danger and all begin to run for their lives – literally. But a baby buffalo, not yet big enough, not yet fast enough to outrun the power and speed of the lionesses falls behind. A lioness – with all her power – chases the baby buffalo, grabbing it, ready to take it away for the entire pride. As this is happening, her fellow lionesses run with her, ultimately all taking a share of the “prize.”

But the buffalo, now caught in the powerful teeth of the lioness remains partly in the river that she fell into – as the lionesses attempt to draw her out. Meanwhile, a lone crocodile - also in need of a meal, becomes aware of the buffalo in the water and stealthily swims up to the buffalo and then – suddenly – pounces out of the water grabbing the buffalo – now caught between the teeth of both the lionesses and crocodile. Who will win the “prize?”

Eventually the crocodile is unable to hold on, giving up, leaving the prey for the lionesses – well deserved, apparently! But it’s not over yet, because the buffalo have not forgotten their baby – ALSO a part of the group. Just when you thought the entire herd had run – escaping the lionesses, you find out that they had actually run to get HELP! And they return with all the help they can get – some 100 buffalo ready to reclaim their child – a member of their herd!

The lionesses become scared, embarrassed (perhaps!) realising the power behind this unity of buffalo as they stake their claim! What should the buffalo do? They’re certainly strong enough to fight the small pride of lionesses. But they don’t. They’re not interested in fighting. In fact, they’re only interested in one thing – a member of their herd – a baby unable to take care of herself. With disgust, the leader of the buffalo herd give a couple of the lionesses a goring with his horns, sending one of them flying in the air, scared for it's life! Within moments, the lionesses can think of nothing more than their own lives. The “prize” for the day – no matter how tasty and satisfying, is simply not worth the trouble – if it will cost them their own lives… and they flee for their own lives – literally!

As for the buffalo – they return together with their member – their friend, their child – their baby – and leave the danger zone!

All ends well for the buffalo. The crocodile will have to search for his own food elsewhere – and as for the lionesses, they’ll have to spend the day recuperating from the “adventure” of the day – and probably end up without their meal for the day…

Do such things really happen? Watch the video for yourself!

But what can we learn from this? We – the world – the Jewish people, each of us as individuals?

Buffalo want nothing more than the grass they eat. They stick together as a group. They love each other, and even when just ONE baby is in trouble – they’ll do everything they can to save it’s life. Don’t think they’re weaklings either. These animals are filled with a massive amount of power that can do damage – even to the king of the jungle!

Crocodiles are creatures for themselves. They don’t need to work in groups (or floats), because they’re all powerful and cunning all by themselves… swimming along silently, secretly waiting for some prey to come by… then suddenly without a moments notice, pouncing on their prey, dragging them to the bottom of the waters by twisting them around and around until their life is completely over with.

Lions – they want nothing more than the meat they’re made to eat. They’re powerful too – but their power is for capturing their prey – not for protecting those closest to them when confronted by real danger. But, they have no choice, being carnivores, they were created to behave this way. They do, however, value family life – and also understand what unity is about – unlike the cunning crocodile.

What can we say of ourselves? Where do we fit in? Are we crocodiles – alone, living our lives for ourselves, ready to jump on any prey no matter how sneaky we may be in obtaining it? Are we perhaps lions, caring for our small family, but still ready to destroy any other “meat” in our way? Or are we perhaps buffalo? Strong and caring. We need our food, but it doesn’t always have to be meat – and we certainly don’t need to tear every being in our path in order to obtain it. Grass is good enough. Do we value unity and appreciate what it really is all about?

The buffalo understand life. It’s about sticking together and being there for every single member of the herd. And when one of them is in trouble, it will go all out to get EVERYONE involved in order to save the life of this one. Does it then take revenge upon the enemy? Well… perhaps a good goring – but it’s not in any need of anything more. It simply wants to be able to get on with it’s own life – if only the rest of the beasts out there would just leave it alone. It needs to tell them this and must do everything it can to get the message across. But it’s no carnivore – it has no interest in destroying the other – save for when it comes to their having prepared to destroying one of them…

Perhaps we can actually learn something from animals. Perhaps in fact, we need to learn from them. Sometimes we may become so involved in human life – that we tend to forget what life is actually all about. In fact, sometimes, we can even study much Torah, only to find that we still don’t understand these important themes. Unity, love, caring – being there for one’s own. Eating what we need – without having to destroy our fellow in the process.

There is much to learn after all from animals – after all.

But watch the video yourselves. Perhaps looking at life through the eyes of the Baal Shem Tov – and being aware that one can learn much from everything one sees, it will help each of us to focus our attention where it needs to be – more than ever right now. We need true unity – even for a lone member of the flock who seems to have already been taken by the beasts – both physical and spiritual – of this world. Let no Jew be left alone, because the loss of one is the loss of an entire world. No matter who or what he may be, if we can help, it is our duty to, and if we can’t, it is up to each of us to gather the rest of group together to make certain that his life is saved.

The world was created with just one man – to teach that each of us is an entire world. Not only this, but each of us is the very centre of the entire world. Each is important, valuable and a contributor – if only we’ll be there for them, bringing them up, protecting them, and aiding them to ultimately take care of themselves, and thereafter be able to also give to the world.


I thought I’d figured it all out. But there was more in store. Are lions really the beasts we saw in the previous video? The Torah teaches that when Moshiach comes, the lion will dwell with the lamb. The ferocious lion will be as tranquil as a delicate lamb. What a wonderful world!

This story brought it all out, but you’ll have to watch the next clip to appreciate it’s beauty.

When one is kind to animals – when one behaves towards all in ways of lovingkindness and goodness, one should know that in accordance with the giving so will be the getting. An animal only becomes ferocious because it has been forced by others into a situation where to simply survive it has become the beast it now is. When, however, even a lion is given the care one might give to one’s lamb… then with all its power, the lion turns into a lamb. It is only violent towards its enemy – but to those who have learned how to love, it too bestows its love upon them. Even a lion can be gentle – but it takes us – as human beings – to make it so. Everything in life is reciprocal by nature – and the more we behave in ways of kindness, the more kindness comes back to us.

When Daniel found himself in the “Lion’s Den”, the lions lay docile next to this Tzaddik. When one is a human being – a soul in a body – who directs his life towards G-dliness, then he himself becomes a G-dly vessel. In fact, such an individual could imagine nothing greater than to be kind to all – even to lions. If so, then even the animals know this and will not harm him. Indeed, this is the protection given to a Daniel!

Animals understand kindness, for themselves and for others. Perhaps, as the Torah teaches – we do need to learn much from them. In fact, perhaps we should take a break, look at the perfection of nature, realise that G-d is in charge, and that our duty is to connect with Him, ultimately bringing Him into this world below, so that we feel His manifestation in every inch of this world, and through this, may we be rewarded with the ultimate manifestation of complete kindness as the world enters a realm of complete freedom and goodness, a world of revealed G-dliness, happiness, beauty and caring of every single creature – for every other single creature – with the coming of Moshiach NOW!


Magdeburger Joe said...

My son showed me the first video. It is only on your site that I really "saw" it. I'm glad you are going strong. Thank you also for telling us what happened the other day with the hackers. You are an aexample of what a blogger should be. It was a pleasure to "high five" you on J blog central


Thank you so much for this positive comment - Magdeburger Joe. It is highly encouraging! As you are probably aware yourself, sometimes one finds oneself in one's own blogland, wondering who's reading and is anyone actually enjoying anything. This really gives me the strength to want to do more. I seem to think that there are many readers on JBlog Central who read articles there without realising the other benefits of clicking on the actual blog to see certain things such as videos. They may give lower ratings because there's - for example - no video, although of course it can be seen on the main site. Thanks for checking it out! In general I really enjoy hearing from readers, and only hope that more will comment so that I get a better idea of what interests people so that I can keep them coming back for more! Thanks again - and wishing you success with all your blogging! Eliyahu


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