The Robeson Postulate

August 19, 2013 at 12:32pm

BS”D

by Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim.

This morning I was suddenly struck by a concept that I have named the “Robeson Postulate”. Here is the background and the postulate:

In the movie “Pi” the character Sol Robeson makes this astounding statement:

“Sol Robeson: Hold on. You have to slow down. You’re losing it. You have to take a breath. Listen to yourself. You’re connecting a computer bug I had with a computer bug you might have had and some religious hogwash. You want to find the number 216 in the world, you will be able to find it everywhere. 216 steps from a mere street corner to your front door. 216 seconds you spend riding on the elevator. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere… As soon as you discard scientific rigor, you’re no longer a mathematician, you’re a numerologist.”

So, the Robeson Postulate is as follows:

“If you want to find proof of something in the world, good or bad, you will be able to find it everywhere. You will find it in the people you meet on the street. You will find it in the places you live and visit. You will find it in everything that happens to you. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere.” (RaNBaCH)

The Robeson Postulate can be applied for good or, as happens most times, for bad.

Here are some examples where we apply the Robeson Postulate for negative purposes:

Sol Robeson from the 1998 movie Pi.

Robeson Postulate applied to Racism: If you want to find racism in the world, you will be able to find it everywhere. Racism of the people you meet on the street. Racism in the stores you shop in. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. As soon as you discard fact and objective evidence, you’re no longer a thinking person, you’re a self proclaimed victim.

Robeson Postulate applied to Global Warming (or Climate Change as they now call it): If you want to find Climate Change in the world, you will be able to find it everywhere. Climate change in the amount of snow and rain. Climate Change in a hot summer day. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. As soon as you discard fact and objective evidence, you’re no longer a climatologist, you’re a Conspiracy Theorist.

Now, let me tell you a story of how this Robeson Postulate works even in the Mitzvot.

Many years ago, there was a Chassidic Rabbi who was so afraid of transgressing the Sabbath that he spent from sundown to sundown sitting in a chair with his feet together and his arms at his side; not even eating. He could see how everything he would do could transgress the Sabbath.

The Robeson Postuulate applied to the Sabbath: You want to find transgression of the Sabbath, you will be able to find it everywhere on the Sabbath. Walking from room to room. Washing your hands. Enjoying a meal. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. As soon as you discard fact and objective evidence (in this case Talmud/Halachah), you’re no longer observant, you’re a transgressor (not resting on the Sabbath and not celebrating the Sabbath).

Here is a more extreme example:

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai should be executed. He fled with his son, Rabbi Elazar, to hide in a cave. For twelve years, Hashem miraculously provided their food and drink, and they spent the entire day engrossed in the study of Torah. After twelve years, Hashem sent Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) to announce at the opening of the cave that the person who made the decree had died, and Rabbi Shimon’s life was safe. Rabbi Shimon and his son emerged to see the light of day for the first time in more than a decade. However, while they had spent this time climbing to great spiritual heights, the rest of the world had continued in its more mundane fashion. When Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar saw men “wasting” their time on what they viewed as frivolous non-spiritual matters like plowing and planting, the Rabbis looked at them with such anger and disdain that the farmers were immediately burned by a mystical fire. A Divine voice called out, “Have you left the cave to destroy My world?” Rabbi Shimon and his son returned to study Torah in the cave for another year.

The Robeson Postuulate applied to Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: If you want to find the lack of spiritual connection with HaShem (G-d Forbid), you will be able to find it everywhere. The farmer working his field. The storekeeper selling his wares. The children playing in the street. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. As soon as you discard fact and objective evidence (in this case that people need to live their lives and earn a living), you’re no longer a Tzaddik, you’re a lone judge (Only One may judge alone, HaShem – B”H).

However, the Robeson Postulate works in the opposite direction also.

Now, let us look at the reverse of this:

Pirkei Avot 12. Hillel and Shammai received the Torah from them. Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures and bringing them close to the Torah.

The Robeson Postulate applied to “Loving your fellow creatures”: If you want to find good in people, you will be able to find it in every person. Good in the people you meet on the street. Good in the poor and downtrodden. Good in the stray dog in the street. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. As soon as you discard outward appearance and immediate reation, you’re no longer a realist, you’re Tzaddik.

(Sha’ar HaOsios, Hashgachah Protis). The Baal Shem Tov taught that when a piece of straw falls from a wagon loaded with straw, this has been decreed by Heaven. Similarly, when a leaf falls from a tree, it is because Heaven has decreed that this particular leaf at this particular moment would fall at this particular spot. Once the Baal Shem Tov showed his disciples a certain leaf as it fell to the ground and told them to pick it up. They did so and saw that a worm was underneath it. The Baal Shem Tov explained that the worm had been suffering due to the heat, so this leaf had fallen to give it shade.

The Robeson Postulate applied to The Love of HaShem: If you want to find Love of HaShem, you will be able to find it in everywhere. Love of HaShem in the lives of the people you meet on the street. The Love of HaShem in the world around you. The Love of HaShem in the things placed before you. When your mind becomes obsessed (connected) with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. As soon as you connect with the Love of HaShem, you’re no longer a realist, you’re Tzaddik.

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26 Responses to The Robeson Postulate

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    • Aryel Nachman says:

      Being a Rabbi, I find it easiest to write right after doing prayers. That is typically when the ideas come and I am in the right frame of mind. However, like every writer, I hit times when it’s just not there. Just keep at it!

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