A Fundamental Truth

November 16, 2023
Samuel Mishkin

Montevideo, Uruguay

Class of 2026

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In the 80s, an author and self-proclaimed “space philosopher” named Frank White coined the term overview effect to describe a phenomenon that occurs when people look at Earth from space. A multitude of astronauts have described a state of awe and wonder that washes away everything else they thought mattered. It is to say that seeing our planet as it truly is, a small spec in a seemingly endless void, shows us just how lucky we are to be alive and to have a habitable home. In the middle of the Cold War, in fact, this feeling even brought Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut and the first human in space, to dream and speak of global unity and cooperation.

Of course, most of us have not, and probably will not, ever go to space, but there are other sobering moments we do go through. I myself was brought down to Earth with the war in Israel, as was the case with many Jews around the world. In Israel itself, before Hamas’ terror attacks, there was more political division than ever before. I experienced this myself in July when we went to visit some relatives, and it was nearly impossible to get around Tel Aviv with the massive, almost daily protests. Yet, when it came time to defend their country and save the hostages, the Israeli people and Jews in the diaspora of all denominations put aside their differences to do what was necessary. If you would like to help, too, you can donate here.

I would not say that war teaches us what matters because that gives it much more credit than it is due. I think in extreme situations, when we are forced to deal with realities that exceed our comprehension, our coping mechanism is to boil the problem down to what is most important and simply try to protect it. Sometimes, it takes something to be at risk for us to notice how much it means to us.

Each individual will have their values, which will dictate their choices, and in that, there will be a lot of variability, but we are all still the same species and, in a sense, all cut from the same cloth. When push comes to shove, we tend to value life. People tend to be heroic in dark times. Despite this, in a world of fluff and endless distractions, we might only understand what truly matters and unites us all in certain extreme moments. Let us not forget it. When peace arrives, and the conflict with Hamas eventually subsides, I implore you to never forget what is most important. When facing climate change, war, politics, or whatever evil we will face in the future, I pray that we all remember what it is we are fighting for: our world, our happiness, and life itself.

“I see Earth! It is so beautiful.”  –Yuri Gagarin

Samuel Mishkin is an Aleph from Montevideo, Uruguay and he's lived in 6 different countries.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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