By Rabbi Yossi Rosenberg
That’s right. You are not reading this column. It isn’t happening. In fact, it’s impossible for you to be reading this column.
What makes me so sure that you aren’t reading this? Simple. It’s statistically impossible that you are! In fact, it’s statistically impossible for you to be alive in the first place.
There are over 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) neurons in an average human brain, and over 100,000,000,000,000 (one hundred trillion) synapses, connections through which the neurons communicate with each other. In one eye alone, the part that sees is comprised of tiny rods and cones. Each human retina can have about 7,000,000 (seven million) cones and between 75,000,000 (seventy-five million) and 150,000,000 (one hundred and fifty million) rods!
The human circulatory system has blood vessels that reach every cell in our bodies, including over 10,000,000,000 (ten billion) microscopic capillaries. If we were to stretch our blood vessels out in one straight line, it would go around the world over two and a half times! Yet, our heart, pumping at an average of seventy to eighty beats per minute, circulates all of our blood through our entire system blood vessels around three times every minute! The pumping is powered by electricity manufactured in the heart itself.
The average adult human produces 200,000,000,000 (two hundred billion) red blood vessels, 10,000,000,000 (ten billion) white blood cells, and 400,000,000,000 (four hundred billion) platelets per day. These transport oxygen and whatever is necessary for every cell in the body – such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, salts, glucose, calcium, iron, copper, etc. – all in a perfectly organized and highly regulated manner, carry away carbon dioxide and other waste products, and fight off thousands of potential diseases through a sophisticated system of ever-changing, custom-made antibodies.
Every single person since creation has his or her own unique genome sequence made up of approximately 3,000,000,000 (three billion) pairs of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), structured in a stunning double-helix polymer containing four nitrogenous bases attached to a deoxyribonucleic sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule.
These are just a tiny sampling of the trillions of highly sophisticated and exquisitely controlled activities going on each and every second in every human body.
To put this in perspective, there were 278,063,737 (two hundred and seventy-eight million, sixty-three thousand, seven hundred and thirty-seven) registered vehicles in the United States in 2021. When one takes into account even the smallest screws, nuts, and bolts, a single car has about 30,000 parts. Most of these are not moving parts. Even so, were one to count all the parts of all the registered cars in the entire United States, the number would come out to about 8,341,912,110,000. That’s less than 8-and-a-half trillion parts.
Statistically, then, the chances of one person living through one day, in complete health and with all his faculties working, is far, far smaller than the chance that a day can go by without a single vehicle in the entire United States breaking down. In fact, it’s probably no exaggeration to propose that the statistical probability of a single person remaining alive – no less, healthy – on any given day, is less than the chance that not one vehicle, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator or heating and cooling system in the entire United States would break down for one whole day.
Clearly, then, you are not – statistically speaking – reading this column right now, simply because there is no way that you are alive and capable of reading. It’s impossible. There’s just no way for so many trillions of moving parts operated by so many different yet interconnected systems to work properly for one day, let alone for years and years.
The problem with what we are positing, you must be asking at this point, is the fact that you are reading this column! (Unless you actually aren’t reading this, in which case we’re left with the age-old philosophical question: If no one reads a column, is it still a column, or is it just a bunch of random drops of ink on paper?) Clearly, it would be safe to say that our very existence is living proof that Hashem is in charge of that which He created, and that He takes care of it all, down to the minutest details, regardless of what may or may not be the actual statistical outcome.
What’s This Button For?
While many people experience various challenges throughout life, there are certain situations that seem particularly daunting given the statistical improbability of one finding one’s salvation. When it comes to shidduchim, we are often inundated with the “facts” that, given the way of the world, where the girl is almost always younger than the boy to whom she becomes engaged, there are, statistically speaking, not enough boys for all available girls. Understandably, this causes a panic and a crisis. Blame is placed, the “system” is said to be broken, and all sorts of solutions are bandied about.
One is reminded of the vort (which I’ve heard in the name of the Vilna Gaon) on the posuk (Tehillim 92:7), “Ish ba’ar lo yeida, uchsil lo yovin es zos – An artless individual does not know, and a fool does not understand this.”
Imagine a simple fellow being given a tour of the control-room of a nuclear power plant. The room is filled with thousands of buttons, switches, knobs, various sized screens, all sorts of flashing lights, and tens of highly-trained scientists in protective gear manning their stations. The fellow gapes around, completely overwhelmed. His gaze then falls on a particular red switch enclosed in a glass, electronically-locked, case.
“What’s that switch for?” he asks curiously.
That switch happens to be last-ditch emergency measure in case of an uncontrolled nuclear meltdown.
“That,” his guide tells him, “will activate a procedure whereby the nuclear reactor is imploded from within, this entire area becomes sealed, and anything inside the sealed area will be contaminated by radioactivity for at least the next fifty years.”
“Are you guys insane?!” the fellow shrieks, horrified. “Why would you ever even think to put in such a dangerous switch? Why would you want to destroy all this? And especially to expose all that deadly radioactivity? Wow. I mean, like, which idiot designed this control room? What a fool to put in such a switch…”
The outburst, of course, only serves to prove to the guide the utter foolishness of the fellow to whom he is giving that tour. Here is someone, after all, who has not an inkling as to how a nuclear power plant even operates. He knows nothing about uranium, thorium, radioactive isotopes, fissile nuclides, heavy water, fuel rods, shim rods, superheated states, chain-reactions, or anything else having to do with nuclear power production or safety. He couldn’t differentiate between a nuclear meltdown and a tuna melt.
Yet, he demands to know why a certain seemingly-dangerous switch would be found in the control-room and nerve-center of a nuclear power plant. That the switch is designed to be almost impossible to activate, and that it is designed for only the desperate necessity of preventing a far greater and more wide-spread nuclear catastrophe, is totally beside the point. Only a fool fancies himself as qualified to express such a sentiment in the first place.
This is the meaning of ish ba’ar lo yeida, a boor, a simple, uncouth, artless fellow, does not know. He walks into a control room and says, “Oh my! I have no idea what is even going on here!” He doesn’t know. He’s not a fool. He’s simply uneducated.
Uchsil lo yovin es zos. The fool says, “What’s this?This, I don’t understand!” As if he understands anything else…
This is a Crisis
We are in a world that is clearly run by a Creator. There is no way for it to be otherwise. As we’ve seen above, we couldn’t design the simplest machine as amazingly as Hashem designs even one human cell, let alone an entire world of people, animals, fruits, weather, world events, historical occasions, and individual direction.
How could any human even begin to understand how Hashem can manage His world? We’re the guy in the control room who can only gape around in wonder and admit to lo yeida, we just don’t know. Clearly, though, Someone quite capable is in charge.
How do billions of people, and probably trillions of animals, have water to drink and food to eat? How do the oceans remain within their borders and not flood the world? How does the sun remain in its perfect orbit and not move an inch closer and burn the world or an inch further and freeze it? How can you read these words and make sense of them through a tangle of millions of nerve cells that we couldn’t even begin to understand?
Clearly, Hashem has it all planned out, down to the tiniest minutiae.
One second, though. Wait. There seems to be a problem here. How can all our daughters find their shidduch if the ages don’t jibe with the statistical availability of eligible boys?
This, I don’t understand! How said daughter lived up until now, I understand. How a baby can be formed and born when she will be’ezras Hashem get married, that I understand. How Hashem designed sound-waves that will carry the music at her wedding, how Hashem created electricity to power the lighting, how she can get married with chupah and kiddushin even after virtually the entire world tried for thousands of years to wipe us and our Torah out, that I understand. Hashem’s got all that under control.
It’s with shidduchim, though, that Hashem needs our “help.” Suddenly, He can’t figure out how to work the numbers correctly? He lost count, chas veshalom?
Mustard Seeds and Shidduchim
The Sefer Chovos Halevavos – a Rishon – makes an amazing statement. In the third perek of Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh, in the thirtieth cheshbon, he discusses how nobody can take away or add to our parnossah unless Hashem so wills it. Then he says: V’ilu hoyisa ma’aleh al libecha, if you could imagine, ki ha’olam kulo lecha levadcho, nish’ar me’ein yoshev, that you were the only living person in the entire world, lo hoyah zeh mosif b’tarfecha…k’shiur chardal, it would not add to your parnossah even one mustard seed!
V’chein, ilu hoyu nosafim anshei ha’olam k’falim [rabbim], and if there were over double the number of people in the world, lo hoyah choseir lecha mitarfecha hanigzar lecha k’chardal, v’lo pachos mimenu v’lo yoseir, you would not have even one drop less parnossah than that which was decided for you, not even less or more than the amount of a mustard seed!
This, of course, goes against all statistics and rules of logic. If we would be the only person in the entire world, wouldn’t we have more stuff? Conversely, if there was over-population and way too many mouths to feed, wouldn’t we all surely have less? Perhaps not even enough?
Hashem, however, does not need our help in running His world. What He decides for us, we will get, and He will take care of how. What He wants, we will have, no matter whether there seems to be too many other people, or not enough other people, out there competing against us.
This has nothing to do with what is or isn’t the proper age for a boy or girl to get married. One needs to follow their daas Torah – not any trends or ads – to decide on what course is proper for him or her.
What is clear, though, is that no matter what anyone else may or may not do, nobody and nothing can take away the shidduch that was decided for you.