By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
August 21, 2011
I’m serious. So is this riddle. A hunter leaves his cabin and strides exactly 2 miles due south. He turns and marches exactly 1 mile due east where he shoots a bear. Dragging the bear exactly 2 miles due north, he reaches the door of his cabin. What color is the bear?
Most of us imagine the hunter as strong and vigorous. But, whether hunting bear or building a home or business, it is tough to achieve meaningful goals if you feel puny and irrelevant. The Torah teaches how vital it is to feel powerful and purposeful when embarking on important challenges.
Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals useful information from words or phrases that occur infrequently. For instance, the four cardinal points of the compass, North, South, East and West are mentioned together only three times in the Five Books of Moses.
#1- God to Abram:
…raise now your eyes and look out from where you are North, South, East and West.
#2 - God to Jacob:
…and you should spread out to the West, East, North and South…
#3 - God to Moses:
…raise your eyes to the West, North, South, and East…
When Scripture mentions the four directions of the compass, it is not talking simple geography. This is abundantly clear in the following instance.
chose for himself the entire plain of the Jordan,
and Lot journeyed from the East…
as far as Sodom…
Many translations mistranslate the preceding as “Lot journeyed TO the East…” however the Hebrew unambiguously says “Lot Journeyed FROM the East.”
Lot travelled from Beth El to Sodom by the Dead Sea which means that he did in fact travel TO the east. But, we are not discussing geography. East always means the spiritual source close to God. (See Tower of Power) By parting from Abram, Lot was indeed travelling FROM the East. When God says North, South, East, and West three verses later, it likewise means spiritually not geographically.
Case #3 offers another tip-off that compass directions are not geographical.
After being told that he will never enter Israel, Moses climbs Mt. Nevo to see the land from afar. Mt. Nevo is on the east side of the Jordan. God should have told him to gaze West, North and South. There was no point in Moses looking eastward from where he had just come. He wished to see Israel not Jordan. Clearly the four compass points represent something greater.
Each of the above 3 cases describes a crucial transition in the destiny of the Jews. Abram was on the threshold of forming the Hebrew nation. Jacob was establishing the centrality of Jerusalem in the Jewish experience for it was on that holy site that he had his famous dream. Moses’ life was drawing to a close, and he is about to deliver his final speech of guidance and prophecy to the Children of Israel.
In order to face these formidable tasks, each man had to visualize himself in the very epicenter of power, passion and purpose. Hearing the phrase North, South, East, and West signifies that you are at the center of everything. The world lies spread before you. Now go and do what you must do.
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As we each face the formidable and virtuous task of increasing our revenue we must overcome the handicap of seeing ourselves as diminutive pygmies at the periphery of the action. No, instead, envision yourself at the very epicenter of power, passion, and purpose in your own enterprise. Look out to the North, South, East, and West, and go do what you must do.
Precisely how to achieve your purpose I discuss far more comprehensively in my book Thou Shall Prosper. I hope you will equip yourself with it and also give it to anyone else in your life who must still transform the rest of 2012 into a financial success. Its price is substantially reduced right now.
Oh yes, and the bear was white. The cabin had to be situated at the North Pole, the only point on the planet where the events of my opening riddle could happen.
© 2011 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved
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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.
You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.
Web Site: www.rabbidaniellapin.com