More Power To You: Lessons From the Earth

We’re all familiar with Lord Acton’s axiom, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” However, a growing body of research shows that feelings of power can make a person less self-centered.

Feeling inadequate, we focus on me. We wonder how we’re perceived; we question our abilities to accomplish anything meaningful for others. But by feeling powerful and in control, we’re free and present to serve a cause greater than ourselves.

There’s a catch: the power must be pure. If we use our power to lord over, rather than serve, others, we become weak. Consumed by thoughts of me, we are unable to be present, unrestricted, and powerful.

This past week, standing at Sinai, we not only reestablished our faith in the Almighty but also reexperienced the Almighty’s faith in us.

The Torah, the pure expression of divine will and blueprint of all reality, was given to man. God (so to speak) entrusted his goals for creation to the frail and evil- prone human being — an act which the angels vigorously protested.

However, deep within man is a spark of divinity — a soul so pure and powerful that it is the perfect vehicle for expressing God’s will. The strength of the soul correlates directly with man’s choices. Egotistical living, where man chases his next pleasure trip, or delights in the trampling of others, will hide the soul from sight.

As we journey on with life, carrying the renewed Sinai experience in our hearts, the Torah tells us about the sotah (suspected adulteress). She has taken the potential for greatness and squashed it. Instead of building her own life and home, she destroyed herself, her family, and others. She foolishly allowed fleeting pleasure to rule the day, thereby relegating her inner power to the role of sorry prisoner.

The prescription for the sotah is a drink of earth-infused water.

The earth’s greatness is that it serves all life; it is the base upon which we build our homes; it is the ground upon which we walk; it is the place that life-giving plants and trees take root and flourish.

Self-serving earth is the very lowest element of reality; other serving earth is the source of all life.

The sotah story challenges us: Will we selfishly allow our earthliness to hide our soul? Or, will our physical side serve as a fertile ground for the growth of our inner greatness and power?

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Shmuel Halpern

Shmuel Halpern

Adult Jewish education. Denver Colorado