Lithuanian-born American Founder of the Society of Jewish Science, Rabbi
Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein
Lithuanian-born American Founder of the Society of Jewish Science, Rabbi
Jewish Science combats the fear of poverty by emphasizing the fact that true wealth lies in the acquisition of spiritual riches. Material riches is not life, it is only a means for living. To value life by wealth is to degrade it. Trust in God and He will satisfy all your needs. He has prepared sustenance for all those to whom He gave life. He has placed it within their reach and has given them the power to go and obtain it. Just as He has prepared sustenance for all the birds, but, having given them the means of obtaining it through their own efforts, has not thrown it into their nests ; so, with the same end, He has endowed man with the necessary tools to dig and labor for his bread. It is the process of obtaining his necessities that develops man and makes life interesting. A life of simple comfort, obtained through one's own efforts, a life free from forebodings and fear, is a goal to be desired more ardently than a superabundance of wealth and luxury.
If man would but realize that he is essentially a spiritual being, that his body is but the vesture of the individualized spirit, that his life is a portion of the great Spring of life which fills the world, he would at once discard the constant fear of ill-health to which he is a prey. The organs of the body are but the visible instruments whereby the spirit expresses itself, the senses are but mediums, and the brain is but a tool, and all the other processes are but messengers to carry out the injunction from the higher center of man, from his mind. Sickness in the body is a symptom of some disturbance in the mind-center ; bodily sickness is the signal of some form of mental depression, conscious or unconscious. It is the spirit in man, therefore, the invisible, the mind, which must be considered first in avoidance and treatment of illness. Spirit cannot be reached through physical channels, it must be reached through divine methods. When one fears the approach of illness, let him commune with the divine in him ; let him, in order to stimulate the flow of health and courage within him deliver himself completely to the care of God. Let him affirm with all sincerity and devotion "I am a divine being, the flow of divine health is circulating through my body," or, "The divine fountain of Health within me is yielding new strength with every hour." The stream of health will then resume its natural route through the body, and the fear of illness, like a phantom at the sight of the sun, will steal away.
A system of ethics may be based either on fear or on love, but not on both. When based on fear, the letter of the law, as a rule, will be executed, but not its spirit. Because of fear, men may deal honestly with one another, but they will not necessarily be honest men, they may speak truthfully even and not be truthful. Fear develops a dual personality, one manifested in the presence of the object feared, the other, perhaps of extremely opposite tendencies, unfolded in the secret chamber of the heart. In a system of ethics based on fear, man is persuaded that he is weak and untrustworthy, that his nature is hopelessly corrupt, unable to master itself except at the lash of a Force lying outside himself. Man, it then would seem, is innately wicked ; his wickedness must be chained by threats of divine wrath and punishment ; he, of his own accord, would not walk in the path that is straight ; he must be forced into it by the gaps and ditches that are lurking dangerously outside this path. Such a system, in which man is convinced that he is unable to take care of himself, build his own character, merely tends to generate moral weakness and cowardice. A system of ethics based on love develops a unified personality, a oneness between thought and action. It enhances, more and more, the moral courage which is basic to man. Through love, man becomes conscious of the great force of goodness and virtue that lie within him. He knows that he is possessed of inherent goodness and godliness, if he knows that in himself is a spark of the divine, a force that makes for perfection. All he needs to do is to allow this divine spark to illuminate and permeate his whole being, and darkness and evil will disappear from his heart.
It was not at all the intention of the Jewish teachers and sages of old to teach the fear of God. Many of their utterances regarding the relationship between God and man have been greatly misunderstood and therefore misinterpreted. This misunderstanding has been due greatly to the dual meaning of the Hebrow word, "Yirah." "Yirah" means both to reverence and to fear. This word, employed numerous times throughout the Pentateuch with reference to man's attitude toward God, may lead to the translation of either, "Fear thy God," or, "Reverence thy God." It is clear that the translators of the Bible did not consider the significance of the latter meaning and its import upon both the ethics and the character of the race. To revere our God means that we are to look upon him as a Father, a Shepherd, to guide our steps and watch over our destiny ; it means that we are His children and His flock, that He has brought us into existence as an expression of His love. It means that the whole universe is an outflow of His love,and in response to His profound love, we revere His name. To say that God requests fear is to limit his powers, to lower Him to the level of an earthly king, who sways his people with the tyranny of fear. The true attributes of God are outlined in Exodus 34 :6, "The Lord, the Lord God is merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth."
THE lessons of fear which the child receives from its parents are intensified by the methods employed at the school in which he receives his education and life-training. We glory in the fact that we have made great strides in the science of education, that we are more practical in the choice of subjects for study, that we have a deeper insight into the soul of the child. And yet, in our method of imparting knowledge and in the relations between teacher and pupil, we can boast of but little progress. We still look upon the child as a more or less unwilling receptacle that must be stuffed with learning. The teacher is still a being to be feared, the school room still a prison house, and learning a punishment. Our system of education is still based on reward and punishment. A high mark is still the encouragement for zeal in study, while the backward student is haunted by the prospect of a low grade. The child, under present methods, prepares his lessons either in order to gain the reward of a high mark, or for fear of the contempt and humiliation that accompanies a low grade. In other words, he works not because of the intrinsic interest of his work but in the hope of reward or in the fear of punishment. The first motive breeds the harmful spirit of competition in the young mind.
No good purpose has ever been served by disturbing the nerves of our little ones with the emotion of fear. A child, for example, may suffer more from the fear of a fall than from the fall itself. While it is true that the early steps of a child must be watched, and its early experiences guided, yet a guardianship based on the instilling of fear into the young soul, is far more harmful than any baleful experience which the unguarded child may encounter. It is seldom that an accident befalls a child through its own lack of care or experience ; the instinct for self-preservation works strongly and unconsciously from the very earliest stages of childhood. God has created His creatures with the necessary provisions for the protection of life.
Man has inherited a tendency to fear, from his primitive ancestors. But so has he received other deleterious characteristics which, however, he has succeeded in destroying through a process of repression. Man possesses in his potential make-up all the proclivities of his countless progenitors, from the dweller of the cave to the citizen of the civilized world ; and yet he retains only those which best fit him for the environment in which he finds himself. The other propensities are starved out through lack of nutriment and encouragement. Fear in prehistoric ages, when men and beast met in sudden and fatal encounters, had a vital function. But to-day it has outlived its protective significance and serves only as a generator of sickness and destroyer of mankind. The persistence of fear in man is simply due to man's failure to arm himself against it and drive it from the domain of his consciousness.
THE more science searches into the origin of disease, the more it becomes convinced that the root of physical ailments lies in mental disturb-
ance. The body, of itself, possesses, we find, all the elements that make for health and strength, and if these were not interfered with, man's life upon earth would be untainted with pain or suffering. Interference with the state of the body usually emanates from the mind. The mind is not a mere organ of the body ; it is the power-house, the source from which all the organs draw their vitality and their ability to function. The influence of the mind over the body is absolute. Every one is familiar with the fact that bashfulness or embarrassment, purely mental sensations, will cause the blood to rush into the face ; while fear, on the other hand, will cause it to recede. Joy expresses itself in bright glances, in a "glow of happiness," worry is readily recognized in the drawn mouth and puckered brow. Anger, sorrow, astonishment, all mental states, in fact, bring forth corresponding physical manifestations. These are but some of the superficial aspects of the control of the mind over the body. Physiologists tell us that joy creates a secretion within the body which stimulates the heart and prompts the individual to greater action, while worry creates a secretion of opposite tendency, which retards the inner processes and impedes the efforts of the individual.
The Divine Mind communicates with the human mind through the imagination. A prayer, therefore, should be offered in the form of a mental image. Man must visualize the thing he desires, he must use his imaginative powers to form his petition in terms clearly outlined in his own mind. The profound concentration of attention and thought which this form of prayer requires fills also the heart with deep earnestness and devotion. Man must pray whole-heartedly as well as wholemindedly; he must believe in his heart that his well-being depends completely upon his prayer.