Newton's Third Law: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Lech Lecha 5775
Parashat Lech Lecha 5775
Rabbi Nachman Kahana
EQUAL AND OPPOSITE FORCES
Avram and his entourage returned safely from Egypt where they accumulated incredible wealth. And as it has been from time immemorial, to this day, and well into the foreseeable future, great wealth most often invigorates even the most dormant ego (the difference between a pane of glass which permits one to see out to others and a mirror where one sees only himself is the thin veneer of silver on one side of the mirror).
Lot and his aggressive shepherds were now in a bitter dispute with Avram’s shepherds over how to graze their animals. Lot’s shepherds would take their animals into other people’s fields, and Avram’s shepherds would reproach them for violating the Halacha of respecting the property of others.
After appraising the nearly irreparable damage to his teachings, Avram suggested to Lot that the families part ways (13,8-9):
ויאמר אברם אל לוט אל נא תהי מריבה ביני ובינך ובין רעי ובין רעיך כי אנשים אחים אנחנו:
הלא כל הארץ לפניך הפרד נא מעלי אם השמאל ואימנה ואם הימין ואשמאילה:
And Avram said to Lot, “Please, let us not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let us part company. If you go to the left (north), I will go to the right (south); if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”
Rashi quotes a Midrash:
הסיע עצמו מקדמונו של עולם אמר אי אפשי לא באברם ולא באלהיו:
Lot distanced himself from the Creator and said, “I do not want to be associated with Avram or with his God.”
The Action-Reaction Law
Avram’s great piety vs. Lot’s extremely heretical reaction to Avram’s halachic requirements brings to mind Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states: All forces exist in pairs. When object A exerts a force (FA) on object B, then B simultaneously exerts an equal and opposite force (FB) on A.
Hence, all forces are interactions between different bodies, so that there is no such thing as a force that acts on only one body.
This law is also referred to as the Action-Reaction Law.
Here is an illustration. A person pushes against the floor when he walks, and the floor simultaneously pushes against the person. The tires of a car push against the road, while the road pushes back on the tires. A swimmer pushes the water backward, while the water simultaneously pushes the person forward—both the person and the water push against each other and the two forces are equal and opposite.
The holy, pious Avram was exerting intense pressure on Lot to live an halachic life – to be honest and respect the property rights of others. Lot found it more lucrative to “round off” the sharp corners of Halacha and permitted his shepherds to graze the flocks wherever they pleased, while disregarding the damage he was doing to his uncle Avram’s success in converting the idol-worshipping Canaanites to his teachings.
In keeping with Newton’s Third Law, Lot exerted an equal but opposite force against Avram, which took the form of extreme anti-Halacha atheism.
If Avram went to the north, Lot would go to the diametrical opposite south. If Avram went to the south, Lot would go to the diametrical opposite north.
Newton’s Third Law states that the opposite force has the same intensity as the original force. Therefore, we can measure Lot’s decadence by measuring Avram’s virtues, Lot’s depravity by measuring Avram’s purity, Avram’s obedience to HaShem by Lot’s immorality and Avram’s kindness by measuring Lot’s wickedness.
Avram travels the lanes of the Holy Land and Lot settles in Sedom!
The Anti-Semite Reacts
Newton’s Third Law of motion has contemporary political implications and serves to identify much of present-day conduct between people and nations.
The growing and very dangerous point and counterpoint of today’s world, with its potential for world war, are the actions of Medinat Yisrael vs. the reactions of anti-Semites. Each exerts force on the other, creating equal but opposite forces.
The unprecedented return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land and the Medina’s success in all fields of endeavor exert huge forces that challenge Christian and Islamic belief that the Creator rejected the Jewish people.
The anti-Semite reacts with opposition to the very idea of a Jewish State by seeking to destroy the forces that created the State through boycotts, sanctions, divestments and anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations.
And as the anti-Semite exerts his force on the Medina, we react with opposing force by population growth, urban and rural expansion, military strength and prestige, spiritual ascent, scientific breakthroughs and so much more.
We can measure the extent of our progress by measuring the intensity of the hatred of our enemies, and we can conclude that the degree of their hatred can be measured by the breathtaking progress of the Jewish State.
As the world’s economic, political, social and security indicators fall, the parallel indicators of the Jewish State will show “equal but opposite” results.
Excerpt from My Autobiography
Fifty-Eight years ago today, on the 29th of October, war broke out between England, France and Israel against Egypt, known here as the Sinai Campaign. The following is an excerpt regarding that war from my soon-to-be-published (B”H) autobiography.
Teachers Who Changed My Life
During the day, I was a student at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva in New York’s lower East Side, and attended night school at City College.
The class was very large, numbering several hundred students. I was one of only three who wore kippot. It was the night when the “Sinai Campaign” broke out. At the end of the session, a swarthy-looking student – much older than we three yeshiva boys – approached us and asked what we intended to do about the war. I recall answering “There is nothing we can do.” He then told us that he was an Egyptian soldier and was returning to Egypt to take part in the fighting.
At that moment, I felt the profundity of his words. That goy was a true brother to his countrymen; but we yeshiva students were, in the best case, no more than half-brothers to our people struggling for their lives in the effort to defend Eretz Yisrael. We did not share the day-to-day experiences of life in Eretz Yisrael, so we did not merit to feel the pain or partake in the struggles of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael.
The following morning, I was certain that the Rosh Yeshiva would deliver words of encouragement and prayer for our brothers in Eretz Yisrael. However, the hours passed with no sign of impending speeches by any of the rabbis, and it became apparently clear to me that the Torah being taught there was more appropriate for pre-World War Two Eastern European yeshivot, but totally out of synchronization with what was transpiring in our changing world where the Medina, and all that it implies, will be the fulcrum of Jewish life until the Mashiach.
On that day, the words of an anonymous Egyptian soldier (who, by the way, never returned to the class) and the absence of words by my rabbis had changed my life forever. I knew that, as a son of Am Yisrael, I would live in Eretz Yisrael and, in the right time, it is there where I would return my soul to HaShem.