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 Slowly over my lifetime, I have come to be a skeptic about what experts tell me. I have lived long enough to know that what the experts told me 20 or 30 years ago about what was going to happen regarding the economy, political matters, international conflict, regarding almost everything, have been proven to be, in the main, false and misleading. Of course, no one ever calls the experts to task. No one reminds them what they said 30 years ago. We just let them continue to be experts. No people in the world equal the Jewish people in respecting knowledge, education, and thought. But again, no people in the world represent the idea of skepticism more than the Jewish people, of the fact that there may be another opinion, that the future is unknown. And, that it is the balance between those two that must occur whenever we judge things.

So, the experts tell us a lot of things, but who says they are right? Why should we rely on them? In my old age, I have become an iconoclast and a skeptic. I do not believe what the experts are telling me because what they told me years ago never occurred. The computer models that they make are mainly fictitious, subject to so many variances that they cannot be accurate. And in general, no one can predict the future. I do not recall any expert ten months ago saying that there was going to be a virus, a plague on the world that would change everyone's lives, destroy economies, and turn the world upside down. Yet, we rely on these very same people to tell us now how we are supposed to get out of this predicament and how we are supposed to solve it.
I am willing to hear what experts have to say in the field that they are expert in. A research biologist can tell me a great deal about biology, about cell structure, about how medicine can advance, but I know no reason in the world why I should entrust my economic life or political future to a man that is expert in one particular field. We suffer from the fact that we love celebrities, and therefore a celebrity can endorse a product and people will buy the product. What does the celebrity know about the product? Usually very little; he's doing it because he's being paid to do it. Who says the product is good because the celebrity endorses it? But the nature of people is such that we are believers, and naive believers at that. And oftentimes we allow ourselves to be led astray and to follow expert opinion, which may lead us nowhere and be completely counterproductive to what we wish to achieve.
King Solomon points this out to us. King Solomon was the wisest of all people. He had the greatest intelligence. But the more intelligent he became, the more limited he realized he was, and he said that most of the wise people really are victims of vanity, of nothingness, and that their lives really teach us little. We say it in our prayers every day. We need basic moral values, and those basic moral values are unchangeable. They are not subject to expert criticism because of the fact that moral values have survived and have been the only things that have worked in this world, while much of what the experts told us to do turned out to be nonsense, if not even destructive.
It is interesting to me to note how people take upon themselves the responsibility of predicting the future. I would have thought that after the events of the past half year, that people would be very reticent to do so. But now the experts are telling us when corona will end as though they know. They're telling us how to stop corona as though they know. They're telling us what the world will look like next year, 10 years from now. They speak of the fact that our world may end, all sorts of ideas, all sorts of predictions, but who says that any of it is valid? I prefer my skepticism to the certainty of those who blindly follow what experts are here to tell us.
I know that this is very counter-cultural and goes against the grain, but I think all of us can agree that through a great amount of pain and suffering, we have been led astray by experts. It's not to say that the experts were not well-meaning and they thought that they were going to help, but all of the expertise and the social tinkering of Western society over the last half century has produced more problems and less solutions. It has increased the great challenges that face Western civilization and has not really developed any method of dealing with them.
Knowledge is one thing, wisdom is another. And wisdom is a rare commodity. It is not acquired by studying alone. It requires perspective and understanding, and a basic moral grounding. The moral grounding allows us to compare things, to assess them, to see how they stack up against other ideas. But in a totalitarian world, which I am afraid we are about to live in, there will be no perspective. We will only be the receivers of expert advice, of conjured history, and of false predictions and hopes.
I hope I am not too pessimistic with this view, and I hope that that my expert assessment is also wrong, that human beings have the power of resilience and of saving themselves, even on the brink of disaster. But I think it is important for us to realize that a little doubt, a little skepticism, a little humility would certainly stand all of us in good stead, when we come to make important decisions about our personal lives, about our national lives, and about the direction of society itself. And that is an important Jewish lesson.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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