February 19, 2013 by Rabbi Neil Hirsch


The stars must be in alignment. A few thoughts have come together, and they leave me with a sense of awe.

Recently, I was catching up on some of podcasts that I listen to with regularity. From time to time, the ideas that individuals share in these brief episodes grab my attention and expand the universe of my thinking. That happened as I listened to APM’s On Being with Krista Tippett. In the latest episode, she interviewed Natalie Batalha, a mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Batalha descriptions of our life, our world, and our experience vis-a-vis other planets beyond our solar system were lyrical and spiritual. The most moving image she offered was the image of a mother and child looking up at the stars one evening. The mother points to a star. In one version, she says “See that star, there could be life like ours on some planet revolving around it,” In the more enlightened version she posits, “That star there has a planet that is just like Earth. It is a perfect situation for there to be life like ours.”

As I listened to Batalha, I saw the sky through that imagined child’s eyes. I perceived the stars up in the sky, just as they are in our sky. I saw planets revolving around those stars. Then, I caught sight of one of those planets, a planet just like Earth. There was dry land, and upon that land there was civilization, and there was community. Somewhere in that community I could see another mother standing with her child. They were staring into their sky as well, as the mother said, “Look up at those stars, and imagine planets just like ours revolving around them…”

Standing on the shores of the cosmos, we do not have to give in to agoraphobic tendencies. The cosmos is not so vast, and we are not so insignificant, that we could be like anonymous grains of sand on a seashore. Instead, we can recognize the interconnectedness of all things within the universe. We are integral elements that make up the majestic fabric of the cosmos. I like the way Batalha puts it on her own Facebook page, “Keenly aware that it took billions of years for the atoms to come together and make the portal to the Universe that is my physical self, I try to walk the earth each day with love and gratitude and wonderment. I hope to leave this world of ours a little better than I found it, and part of that plan is to open the eyes of humanity to the myriad other worlds that exist out there in this amazing Universe we share.”

Isn’t her descriptive writing great?

Encountering Natalie Batalha’s interview on On Being was not just a blip on a radar. As I listened, I found myself connecting it to two other timely events: Asteroid 2012 DA14 coming within scraping distance of us and Nicolaus Copernicus’s 540th Birthday, which is today. Something in the stars is telling us to look up and pay attention.

Last Friday, we became aware of 2012 DA14, a 50 yard long asteroid that weighed over 190,000 tons. It was originally discovered last year (and I love this coincidence: on February 23, my birthday), and it passed by at 17,239 miles from Earth. That is approximately two times the Earth’s diameter. In other words, this asteroid came very close to us. I am left wondering how often we pay attention to the universe beyond ourselves. The lesson of 2012 DA14 seems to be that we are not alone. We may not have encountered life on other planets yet, but the Universe as we know it has things within it that pull us out of our self-centered ways, and says, “Hey! The Universe does not revolve around you!”

To read more motivating and thoughtful blogposts by Rabbi Hirsch, go to his blog at http://divreishalom.wordpress.com/.



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