To Be Human is Divine
This article first appeared on MeaningfulMinute.org
In a world where our lives are constantly on the go, it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life and lose sight of what truly matters. However, taking just one meaningful minute out of each day can have a profound impact on our overall well-being and happiness.
A meaningful minute is a moment in which we take the time to focus on something that is important to us, whether it be our loved ones, our passions, or our goals. It is a chance to step back from the noise and distractions of everyday life and connect with what truly matters.
One way to make the most of a meaningful minute is to set aside a specific time each day to reflect on what is important to us. This could be first thing in the morning, during a lunch break, or before going to bed at night.
One example of someone who made the most of a meaningful minute is Sarah. Sarah was a busy working mother who often found herself caught up in the chaos of everyday life. She struggled to find time for herself and often felt overwhelmed and stressed. Being Jewish, Sarah also wanted to incorporate her faith and tradition in her daily life, but she felt she didn’t have time for that either.
One day, while on her lunch break at work, Sarah decided to take a meaningful minute for herself. She stepped outside, took a deep breath and looked up at the sky. As she stood there, she realized how much she missed the beauty of nature and how much she needed this small moment of peace. She also realized that she needed to connect with her faith and tradition too. From that day on, Sarah made it a habit to take a meaningful minute for herself each day during her lunch break. She found that this small act of self-care and connecting with her faith helped her to feel more grounded and less stressed.
Another way to make the most of a meaningful minute is to incorporate small acts of kindness and gratitude into our daily lives. This could be as simple as sending a text message to a loved one, writing a thank-you note to someone who has made a positive impact on our lives, or doing something kind for a stranger. These small acts may take only a minute, but they can have a big impact on both ourselves and others.
Lastly, practicing mindfulness and being present in the moment can help us make the most of a meaningful minute. This means putting aside distractions such as our smartphones and focusing on the present moment. Whether it’s taking a walk, listening to music, or simply sitting and enjoying the beauty of nature, mindfulness practices can help us slow down and connect with what is truly important.
In conclusion, taking just one meaningful minute out of each day can have a profound impact on our overall well-being and happiness. By setting aside a specific time each day to reflect on what is important to us, incorporating small acts of kindness and gratitude into our daily lives, and practicing mindfulness, we can make the most of a meaningful minute and live a more fulfilling life, just like Sarah did.
I must admit something to you, dear reader. I did not write the above article. An AI called ChatGPT did. In less than ten seconds. I typed in the prompt, “write an article for meaningfulminute.org” and this is what it wrote. We are living in a brave new world. The science fiction books we grew up on are now just called science. Is this article perfect? Far from it. It reads more like a 9th-grade essay assignment, and it lacks a certain human touch. But, not too shabby for ten seconds. Not too shabby at all.
The Medrash teaches us that Hashem created the world because he desired to have a dwelling place in the world down below. The approach of the Medrash is revolutionary in that it changes the direction of Judaism. Rather than being a religion that seeks to return man to the heavens above, we focus on bringing Hashem into the world below. To make our world a place where He feels comfortable.
The Jewish people are uniquely designed to fulfill this mission. The passuk in Malachi (2:7) says כִּֽי־שִׂפְתֵ֤י כֹהֵן֙ יִשְׁמְרוּ־דַ֔עַת, the lips of the Kohen are the keepers of knowledge. We are called a nation of Kohanim, and we hold the keys to the wisdom that was given to us by Hashem at Har Sinai. We are obligated to be a light unto the nations. It is our responsibility to share with the world our knowledge of what this world is meant to be. Though he is the minority opinion, the Rambam asserts that we are supposed to teach the nations of the world about the seven Noachide laws. Our failure to do so has not been for lack of desire. For generations, we have been persecuted by the very nations that we are meant to teach. And while antisemitism continues to rise, we live in an age that seems open to hearing what Judaism offers. Coupled with the globalization of the world, we have the unprecedented opportunity to share a Godly message and make our world a more Godly place.
In the final moments before Mashiach, the world is asking increasingly fundamental questions. There was a time when the world was grappling with issues like communism and socialism vs. democracy. Today we are grappling with questions about sexuality and gender. Clearly, today’s issues are closer to the essence than they were even fifty years ago. Artificial intelligence is the next wave of issues that our generation will face. Namely, what is a human being? What differentiates a human being from AI?
ChatGPT is so futuristic that it almost seems to be unreal. What is ChatGPT? ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI. It is trained on a massive dataset of text and can generate human-like responses to text-based prompts. It can be used for various processing tasks such as language translation, text summarization, and question answering. I imagine it will come as no surprise to you that ChatGPT generated this response in less than one second. In simple language, ask ChatGPT any question, and it will give you an immediate response. While this particular piece of technology has massive ramifications in our current world, it is still not earth-shattering. It does, however, herald what is likely to come next.
Professor Yuval Noah Harari, best-selling author, historian, and professor at Hebrew University, recently addressed Google in a conversation regarding AI and technology ethics and commented: “Nobody knows how the world will look in 2050, except that it will be very different from today. So the most important things to emphasize in education are things like emotional intelligence and mental stability because the one thing that they will need for sure is the ability to reinvent themselves repeatedly throughout their lives. It’s really the first time in history that we don’t really know what particular skills to teach young people, because we just don’t know in what kind of world they will be living. But we do know they will have to reinvent themselves.”
In this changing world that Harari imagines, AI-powered self-driving cars will save millions of lives as human error is removed from the equation. AI doctors will be able to diagnose diseases long before we naturally become aware of them. Not only would this save lives it would dramatically drive down the cost of healthcare and the pain that comes with late-stage treatment. And while this may seem far-fetched, it is likely closer than any of us realize. Currently, AI is still not capable of conceptualizing information. ChatGPT retrieves information and does as it is prompted. It cannot yet extrapolate ideas from that information. However, development happens exponentially in the technological age in which we live. One can easily imagine that the dystopian societies imagined by science fiction writers for the last seventy years are not far from our reality. All of which begs the question, when AI can, in fact, conceptualize ideas, what will be the difference between a human being and AI?
Chassidic thought teaches that the soul exists on a plane that is beyond the realm of rational thought. Unlike other creations that were spoken into existence, Hashem blew the soul into man. The Zohar explains this to mean, מַאן דְּנָפַח מִתּוֹכֵיהּ נָפַח, “He who blows, blows from within him.” The metaphor of blowing teaches us that the soul originates in the innermost aspect of Godliness. In simple terms, we are not Godly because of what we can do but because of who we are. And this is the crux of the issue. If we measure a human being by what we can do (abstract and conceptual thought), AI may catch up to us and perhaps even exceed our capabilities. But, if we measure a human being not by our intelligence but by our divinity, then we are fundamentally different from AI.
This issue is reminiscent of an old halachic issue, namely whether a Golem can be counted for a minyan. A Golem is ostensibly capable of doing all a human being can but lacks a divine soul. The Chacham Tzvi (Shu” t 93)was undecided, while his son Rav Yaakov Emden (Shu” t Sheilas Ya’avetz vol. 2, 82) ruled unequivocally that a Golem cannot count towards a minyan. It should be noted that posthumously, another son of the Chacham Tzvi, Rav Meshulem Ashkenazi, printed a later teshuva from his father (Shu” t Divrei HaRav Meshulem vol. 1, 10 s.v. shayach) and in it the Chacham Tzvi retracted his original position and ruled strictly as well. (see also Mishna Berura 55:4) and Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah 116:1)
There is a sweet line that I have heard over the years, “Six days a week, I am a human doing, on Shabbos, I am a human being.” Shabbos is a taste of the world to come. When the world is in its’ rectified state, we will no longer be human doings but human beings. The Chasidic Masters taught that in the times of Mashiach, the most essential thing will be to hold on to our faith. Perhaps what they meant is that in the realm of intellectual capability we will be matched and even surpassed but faith, which is unique to the soul, is something that will be our only defining feature.
Yuval Harari says that we don’t know what skills we ought to teach our children to prepare them for the coming world. I disagree. Now more than ever, we must teach our children about their essence, about the soul that makes them uniquely human, and the timeless values of the Torah that ought to engage every new challenge we face. AI may allow us to live in a world where our material needs are taken care of. The Rambam’s notion of a world where we will have no other responsibilities, and we will be free to contemplate the existence of Hashem no longer seems so far off. And yet, as we come closer to that stage, there will surely be the challenges that Chazal foretold will come in Messianic times. Ula and Rabbah said let Mashiach come after my death so I will not have to witness the birth pangs of Mashiach (Sanhedrin 98b).
A world that cannot differentiate between human beings and AI is a world that has lost all sense of divinity. Historically speaking, conflict is sure to follow when the world loses sight of its Godly nature. We must maintain our responsibility to make this world a Godly place. Now more than ever is the time to teach the world about the soul.