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The Future And Other Fuzzy Visions

By Rabbi Rafi Rank

If anyone knows a stockbroker who can predict the future, please have him or her contact me. I need the help. In spite of my best efforts, I have not found a prescient stockbroker. Actually, I have yet to find anyone who can predict the future. Doctors cannot predict the future. Lawyers cannot predict the future. And much to my dismay, even rabbis cannot predict the future.

The prophet Isaiah was into delivering undiluted and direct warnings to his eighth century BCE Judean audience that were fully brutal in their unadulterated honesty. He charged the people with moral bankruptcy, blasphemy, and insincere prayer. Strong stuff! He also predicted the destruction of Jerusalem. We read his words on this Shabbat Hazon. As we prepare to observe the Yahrzeit of our holy Temple in Jerusalem (that's tishAH b'AV observed this Thursday), we remember Isaiah's warnings to us. Oddly enough, Isaiah got it wrong. Not the part about the corrupt Judean society-but rather, the part about Jerusalem's destruction. Jerusalem did not fall for another 120 years. His message of morality and spiritual integrity are eternal truths that we read and reread. But his dire predictions of the future are forever off base, and serve as reminders that not even prophets can predict the future.

The paradox of the future is that although it exists, it is unreachable. By the time tomorrow arrives, what was once the future has turned into the present. We can spend a lot of time dwelling on a future that no one can predict and will never arrive. Better we should embrace the present and live ethically, courageously, gratefully, and fully. The present is ours for keeps. The future is the domain of only God and fools.

Rafi Rank is Rabbi of Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, NY as well as Vice President of the International Rabbinical Assembly


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