A hot Wall Street concept and media buzzword these days is the “Black Swan Theory” developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. According to Taleb, almost all major scientific discoveries, artistic accomplishments and historically significant events are “black swans” — undirected and unpredicted. The Internet, the personal computer, World War I and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are examples he gives of Black Swan events. Despite such events being quite rare, they nonetheless play a dominant role in history — vastly greater than standard and more frequent occurrences.
With this column, JInsider initiates a regular series to analyze and monitor the Jewish community for Black Swan events. We want to offer historical perspective and help detect possible black swans in our future — though most potential Black Swan events will always be beyond our ability to consider. Your comments and assistance are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Black Swan Events in Jewish History
Black Swan Events can be good or bad — what defines them is their impact. In Judaism, many influential miracles and misfortunes have shaped our tradition. To put a few of them in Black Swan perspective, here is our initial list:.
Good for the Jews
Publication of Talmud
The Baal Shem Tov and
the hasidic revolution
Creation of the State of Israel
Major oil and gas discoveries
within Israel’s borders
Bad for the Jews
Destruction of the Temples
Acceptance of Christianity
as official religion of the
Expulsion from Spain
We consciously omitted all of the incredible events from the Bible including the journeys of our forefathers, liberation from Egyptian enslavement, the revelation at Sinai and our entering the Promised Land.
Potential Black Swan Events in the Jewish Future
Good for the Jews
Scientific discovery of human
subconscious and soul
Big Idea for Jewish community-
More effective fundraising
Election of Jewish president
Bad for the Jews
Widespread holiday observance
World financial collapse blamed
on Jewish bankers
Holocaust amnesia and Nazi
Nuclear attack on Israel
Final Thoughts: Waiting for the Moshiach
(The Ultimate Black Swan)
A story from the Talmud: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi met Elijah the prophet standing at the entrance of a cave … and asked him, “When will Moshiach appear?”
He answered him “Go and ask Moshiach himself.”
“But where can he be found?”
“At the gate of Rome.”
“And by what sign will I be able to recognize him?”
“He is among the poor people afflicted with wounds…”
I went to Moshiach and said, “Peace be upon you, my master and teacher,” and he answered, “Peace be with you, Bar Levi.”
I asked him, “When will the master appear?”
He answered, “Today.”
I then went back to Elijah … and told him “But he [Moshiach] made a fool of me; he said that he would come today.”
Elijah answered and said, “The expression ‘today’ means the same as it does in this verse, ‘Today, if you will listen to His voice.’ (Psalms, 95:7) (Sanhedrin 98a)
Moshiach, in potential, is present in every generation, yet it is up to us “today” to allow for that revealing. In fact, the mere act of longing, desiring and working towards a better day, aspiring, dreaming and acting to bring about a world where, in the words of the great Maimonides, “there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance…the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know the Creator,” is our connection in the present to that future, and a way of bringing the future into the present today.
— Rabbi DovBer Pinson, prolific author and kabbalist, offers unique learning and life
experience at his IYYUN Center (www.iyyun.com).