One of the many things that fascinates me about Hebrew and Jewish philosophy is the concept of "revealed Torah". What is "revealed Torah"?
As I understand it, "revealed Torah" has to do with the aspects of the physical creation all around us. The "revealed" aspects of the Creator (so to speak) through all of Creation. As a Noahide (a non-Jew who tries to abide by the moral laws of the Torah as taught to Noah), I believe that nature and Creation can help us to better understand not only The Creator, but also to better understand our purpose of existing in this world. The wisdom that we as humanity can learn from The Creator's Creation can also help us better understand ethics according to the teachings of the Hebrew Bible.
One of many examples that I have personally learned from God's Creation is the fascinating nature of snow. Snow has always intrigued me because of the beauty and dangers of it. How can something like snow be so beautiful, serene, fun, sentimental, yet at the same time can be so dangerous that it can even cost the lives of people? I often ponder about this every time I see snow. I especially ponder about these things during Chanukah season.
This Winter of 2022, it happened to snow during Chanukah Season in our area. Thus, I was reminded of some interesting characteristics of it. One characteristic being how snow can be transformed into various forms:
1. Powder and fluff
2. Visible Ice (hardened)
3. Invisible Ice (hardened transparent ice).
The above three forms of snow always reminds me of our evil inclinations which are within all of us human beings. The Jewish Philosophy calls our evil inclinations the "Yetzer Ha-Ra". The "yetzer ha-ra" in concept are the traits within us that can bring physical and spiritual harm to ourselves and to society. In the Jewish Philosophical thought, the goal of humanity is to target our evil inclinations for the purpose of conquering them. By conquering our evil inclinations, we rid the "darkness" inside of us. When we rid the "darkness" inside of us, the light of The Creator shines in and through us. As I understand it, the amount of "light" that can shine inside and through us depends on how much we are willing to rid our inner "darkness".
How can snow remind us of our evil inclinations? I believe the answer is found by observing the three forms that snow can have: powder, visible ice, and invisible ice.
Let's review these three forms of snow...
As I observe snow in its powder form I am reminded of how the evil desires inside of us can appear to be very beautiful on the surface, but in reality it brings only harm to us. Just as snow looks very beautiful as it rests upon the surface of the ground, so can our evil inclinations look beautiful in our lives. However, the beauty of snow in its powder form can be very deceiving. How so? Snow has the ability to cover up dangerous parts of the ground. For example, sometimes there are pot holes in the road and the sidewalks and also holes in fields. If a person is walking on the roads with pot poles or on grassy terrain with holes all around, the snow makes the holes invisible. Thus, people are at risk of injuring themselves by possibly spraining their ankles when walking in the snow on those types of terrain. Without being able to see the holes due to the snow covering them, a person will not be able to safely walk in those areas. Likewise, the evil inclination has similar characteristics in that it looks beautiful on the "surface" of our lives, but that apparent "beauty" covers the dangerous areas of our lives just as snow covers the holes in the roads and grassy terrains. If we allow our evil inclinations to cover up the dangerous areas of our lives, we will not be able to see what we need to avoid and to conquer. We will become blind and our blindness will cause injury to us and it may cause injury to others around us as well.
Another way that snow reminds me of the evil inclination is how it hardens when compressed. Once snow becomes compressed, it becomes hard and no longer holds its powder form. This can make the snow dangerous because in its hardened form (ice) it can injure people if it strikes someone. It can also injure people by making them slip and fall. At least when snow is in its original powder form, it has more traction for people to walk on than when it hardens into ice. Similarly, when the evil inclination within us is not immediately removed but rather, it is allowed to sit there in our lives to "harden into ice" it becomes more difficult to remove. Furthermore, by allowing our evil inclinations to "harden into ice", we also allow it to bring more dangers into our lives. Just like snow is more dangerous once it hardens to ice, it is the same regarding our evil inclinations when we let our bad character traits "harden" like ice in our hearts and minds.
In my personal non-Jewish opinion, this form of snow is the most dangerous one. It is known as "black ice" or invisible ice. It is "invisible" because it is ice that is transparent. This means that it no longer has its white color. Rather, it blends in with its surroundings so that we cannot visibly see it. At least not easily. This type of ice is often formed on top of the road or the sidewalk and is not seen. Due to its invisibility, it creates many dangers for people who are walking or driving on roads. It is often called "black ice" because it blends in with the black asphalt of the road. This type of ice is commonly responsible for car accidents on the road as well as various slip hazards for pedestrians. This type of ice can be an example of our HIDDEN evil inclinations. Meaning that once our bad character traits "harden" like ice, they can blend in with various aspects of our lives which then causes those bad traits to become so habitual, that we no longer see them as evil. Those bad traits become like transparent ice which blends into its surroundings. This is very dangerous because the worst kind of enemy is the one you never see coming. Spiritually speaking, our evil inclinations are our enemies. Thus, if our evil inclinations become like transparent ice, we will not be able to target them nor be able to conquer them. In my non-Jewish opinion, this is the most dangerous form our evil inclinations can take on.
Thawing The Snow and Ice
Once snow hardens to any form of ice, it becomes difficult to get rid of. Shoveling snow is one thing on a snowy day, but shoveling ice is a whole different thing. Ideally, having no snow is the best option. However, when nature and creation takes its course, sometimes it snows and there is nothing we can do about it. So once it snows, the best thing to do is to shovel it as soon as possible before it transforms to any type of ice. Once it turns to ice, we have to use extra resources such as salt or other chemicals to rid the ice. This takes more time, energy, and resources. So it is not the ideal choice. However, it is a necessary one when no other option is possible. So this plus the warmth of the sunlight will thaw the snow and ice.
Just as the warmth of the sun melts the snow and the ice, so will the Light and Righteousness of The Creator and His Torah bring warmth and healing to our souls. This warmth and healing can "thaw" the "snowy" and "icy" evil inclinations within each and every one of us.
In these days, may we as humanity become aware of our "snowy" and "icy" evil inclinations and desire to "thaw" them away by the Light and Warmth" of The Creator (Blessed Be He).
(19) The sun shall be no more your light by day; nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but HaShem shall be to you an Everlasting Light, and your God your glory.
(8) Rejoice not against me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, HaShem shall be a Light to me.
(19) Ngươi sẽ chẳng nhờ mặt trời soi sáng ban ngày nữa, và cũng chẳng còn nhờ mặt trăng chiếu sáng ban đêm; nhưng Đức Chúa Trời (Đấng tạo Hóa) sẽ làm sự sáng đời đời cho ngươi, Đức Chúa Trời (Đấng tạo Hóa) ngươi sẽ làm vinh quang cho ngươi.
(8) Hỡi kẻ thù ta, chớ vui mừng vì cớ ta. Ta dầu bị ngã, sẽ lại dậy; dầu ngồi trong nơi tối tăm, Đức Chúa Trời (Đấng tạo Hóa) sẽ làm sự sáng cho ta.