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The Great Mistake

The Great Mistake

Why did the Creator design such a vulnerable knee?

by

Some call it "God's mistake." No, I'm not referring to the ostrich or the mosquito. Nor even to politicians.

It's the knee.

"It is, without question, ill-suited for the jobs we ask it to do," says James M. Fox, M.D., director of the Center for the Disorders of the Knee in Van Nuys, California, and author of the book Save Your Knees. "It wasn't designed for football, soccer, automobile accidents, being a carpenter or plumber, or squatting and kneeling all day long. It was well designed originally, but there was no way to anticipate all the things we would end up asking it to do."

With all due respect to Dr. Fox, the Creator does not make mistakes, nor could He have failed to anticipate every possible form of activity when He designed the human being. Nevertheless, the preponderance of knee-related maladies forces us to wonder why, in designing the human knee, the Almighty chose to do it this way.

The Hebrew word for "knee" is berech. Curiously, it is spelled exactly the same as the word for "blessed" – baruch. The nature of biblical Hebrew is such that seemingly unrelated words often share a common grammatical root, alerting us that they are not as dissimilar as they might seem. To understand the common thread between berech and baruch, we must first investigate the essence of blessing.

Wellsprings of Prosperity

Possibly the most instructive example of Divine blessing appears in the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 4, where a poor widow beseeches the prophet Elisha to save her sons from being sold as slaves in payment of her debts.

"What do you have in the house?" asks the prophet.

"I have nothing but a small vial of oil," the widow replies.

Elisha instructs her to go to her neighbors and borrow all the pots, jugs, and buckets she can find. He then tells her to take her tiny container of oil and start to pour. The widow follows his instructions and, miraculously, enough oil pours forth from the vial to fill all the borrowed vessels. She takes the oil to the marketplace, sells it off to pay her debts, and lives out the rest of her life comfortably.

Why does the prophet's rescue of this widow require such a complicated process? Why couldn't Elisha have told her to simply go home and find a bag of gold on her dining room table or buried in her back yard?

From this incident we learn that the nature of blessing is increase. The Almighty does not bless us by giving us what we lack; He blesses us by expanding and increasing that which we already possess.

In Jewish prayers, the phrase that appears more than any other is, "Blessed are You, Lord, our God ..." By declaring that the Almighty is blessed, we affirm that God is the wellspring of all blessing. It is He Who created us and everything that is ours, and it is He Who increases or decreases that which we already have. With respect to wealth, wisdom, strength, and talent, we acknowledge our Creator as the source of all, recognizing that everything is given on credit in anticipation of our good deeds and subject to immediate forfeiture if we fail to use it responsibly.

Therefore, whenever we take pleasure in the material world, we articulate a blessing to God as an expression of gratitude, expressing as well our hope that we will continue to merit more of the same.

The Gift of Vulnerability

Nothing in the human condition symbolizes this aspect of our relationship with the Almighty more strikingly than the knee.

Human beings are naturally predisposed to believe that we are self-sufficient -- dependent on nothing other than ourselves and our own resources. We easily overlook or disregard our physical limitations, imagining that we are masters of our own fate and soldiers of our own fortune.

When we indulge in this kind of supreme arrogance, we isolate ourselves from human society, cutting ourselves off from other people and distancing ourselves from our Creator.

The counter-evolutionary design of the knee, by which the entire body rests upon so delicate a mechanism, provides a sobering counterweight to the hubris of the human ego. The human knee is ideally designed for one thing: to walk straight ahead, on even ground, at a moderate pace. But as soon as we speed up, slow down, turn, carry, or climb, we cause increased strain, placing ourselves at risk for injury and incapacity.

Similarly, in our pursuit of wealth, power and recognition, we dare not forget that a false step, a hasty turn, or an ill-conceived leap of overconfidence can deal a crippling blow in an instant. By relying solely upon our own resources, we place ourselves in danger of forfeiting all the blessings that have been given us.

However, when we recognize our own limitations, when we accept our dependency, acknowledge our vulnerability, and relax our reflexive egoism, then we come to appreciate that God's blessings carry with them responsibility, and that we must earn them over and over again. Healthy relationships cannot exist without vulnerability. Only when we recognize that we are not self-sufficient can we accept that we need God's involvement in our lives.

This universal truth applies equally to other people and to the Master of Creation. Only when we lower our psychological defenses and make ourselves vulnerable to others can we let them into our lives, loving them and allowing them to love us. And only by allowing others into our lives can we begin to develop the intimacy with the Divine that yields unimaginable strength, unsurpassed joy, and boundless blessing.

Published: June 13, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 13

(13) Anonymous, December 8, 2009 6:01 PM

Thank you

I started having knee problems recently out of nowhere. And after some prayers with Hashem I came to theorize that maybe Hashem gave me this pain so that I can be more mindful of him throughout the day (pain whenever you walk can be quite a constant reminder). This article has really confirmed my thoughts and taken them a step further. Hashem doesn't just want me to be mindful of him throughout the day, but he wants me to be mindful of his abundant blessings- like this amazingly complex, wonderful working body. My knee seems to be getting better and I hope that Hashem willing, once the pain goes away, I can keep in mind the amazing blessing it is just to have a well functioning body. Thank you for completing the message!

(12) ata, June 22, 2009 5:54 AM

very smart. i may also add that sometimes we don't know the reasons for all the things that the Creator does.

(11) Anonymous, June 17, 2009 5:41 PM

to understand

for me to fully understand and grasp what you are trying to say i need to know just how delicate a knee is, i dont see a reference (hyperlink?) to an explanation of knees and how to take proper care of them - the length of which would bring me to a better understanding of what you were saying. as far as i could tell from the article, the knee was designed with deliberate flaws which means that it will "only" last the average person the duration of their lives without any effort on the part of the user to maintain their good working condition. the article then goes on to say that the reason for these "flaws" is to point out human faults - which i accept as a reasonable deduction. given that i am 100% satisfied with my knees, i still dont fully appreciate the article

(10) Brian H, June 15, 2009 4:50 PM

Posture and personality

Many years ago I qualified as a Certified Graphoanalyst, and fairly soon observed that there is a tight correlation between a couple of aspects of social and emotional expressiveness and posture. Persons who react quickly and overtly to others and events walk (or sit) with head cocked forward, at 20-45 degrees. This is regardless of spine angle. Those who are formal, controlled and "dignified" in their dealings with others, avoiding criticism by being as unfailingly correct as possible, walk and sit with no bend or curve in the spine. Those who bend at the waist are forceful and possibly aggressive in advancing their viewpoints. All of the above have been tested in all six ways, predicting posture from writing, writing from posture, and behaviour from either, or either from behaviour. So, advising people to modify posture for health or comfort reasons is mostly, in my opinion, futile. As person walks and stands the way they approach the world. Unless you change that, the posture won't "improve".

(9) Anne, June 15, 2009 4:17 PM

The Unforgiving Knee

It is ironic that after a 10 year hiatus, a non-forgiving sister-in-law, who chose not to speak with me, invites me to her wedding whereby I sustain a knee injury. I boarded a shuttle bus with no accessory step, and so the rise from the sidewalk to the first step put a great strain on my knee, tearing my miniscus and requiring surgery. I am proceeding with a personal injury lawsuit, which just gives my sister-in-law more ammunition to cause more friction in my marriage. The hypocrisy is that 30 years ago, my mother-in-law had a substantial lawsuit filed against my beloved aunt and was awarded 100,000.00 whereby no personal feelings of resentment were bestowed upon anyone. Should animosity be the way of life within a family unit? I choose peace. May I also allude to the fact that I come from an interfaith marriage. My Jewish background calls for peace, and commands on a daily basis through our prayers "the bringing peace between man and his fellow". May Hashem continue to bless me and realize the limitations that my in-laws have against me as being outright foolish and toxic! While the knee may be a vulnerable body part, it is an integral part of the human body, which succumbs to bending is a sign of humility and submission. Baruch Hashem and all of his creation! May Judaism continue to teach us that we take absolutely nothing for granted.

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