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Thursday, 2 March 2017

Is there life on other planets?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 37

Is there life on other planets?  NASA is constantly discovering new stars and planetary systems.  They recently discovered a whole new galaxy with a number of planets similar to ours.  And all of a sudden, we’re wondering once again what life might be like out there?  And if there is life, how do we get in contact with them?  Do they know about us?  Would they be surprised to learn of life on our planet?

But while they’re off spending billions of dollars checking out other solar systems, do you ever wonder how much of our own planet we’ve discovered?  The answer is not very much.  There are literally thousands of miles below us.  And yet all we’ve really touched so far is the small area a few miles deeper than our Earth’s surface. 

The Nehardeans say: One who sells a date-palm to his friend, transfers to him from the bottom of the tree to the depths of the earth (tehom).
Rashbam explains: The original owner has sold his rights to dig beneath the tree, even one thousand cubits below!

You know why nobody cares about what lies beneath?  Because it seems so irrelevant.  There’s nothing important down there.  So the real question becomes: why does our planet require all the extra depth when we have no need for it? 

The Nehardeans in our Gemara make a powerful statement about the inner-workings of our world.  We all know that a tree doesn’t grow on top of the field.  Its roots run deep into the ground, from where it derives its nourishment.  But listen to the words of the Nehardeans: A tree is connected not just to the area of the soil occupied by the roots, but all the way down to the depths of the Earth!  In other words, the entire depth of our planet is essential to life above the surface!  

When Hashem created the world, the Torah states, “the darkness was upon the deep (tehom).”  The Ralbag explains that the tehom is synonymous with the element of earth.  In those deepest recesses of the Earth, everything is dark and unknown.  And yet, without that deep, dark, unknown, the tree on top couldn’t grow.

Sometimes in life, we feel overwhelmed by the deep, dark, unknown.  We struggle with health issues, relationship problems, financial difficulties.  And it seems almost claustrophobic, so dark, so buried alive.  We feel like there’s nowhere out, nowhere to turn.  Trapped beneath the thickness of the earth.

At those times, you need to remember that the entire ‘deep’ is an essential part of the tree on top of the surface.  How do you grow in life?  How do you become strong and bear fruit? When you harness life’s challenges to grow and become stronger.

Nobody chooses the challenges the Almighty sends their way.  But if you had no challenges, no hurdles in life, there would be no point living.  You might as well have stayed up there in Heaven with Dad.  He sent you down here to Earth for you to be challenged and overcome the challenges.  When you do so, your soul reaches an even greater spiritual height than it ever previously enjoyed!  That’s why it’s the deep, dark, unknown that creates the strong, powerful tree above the surface.  Without the trials and tribulations, there can be no successes.

I don’t know about you, but I think life is challenging enough as it is on this planet, without worrying about what other difficulties we might have to encounter elsewhere!   May you harness all the energy of the deep to become the strong, powerful, fruit-bearing individual Hashem has destined you to be!

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