And indeed, inserting the word "New!" is a proven method for prompting a blog post, video, or product to go viral. (Or at least, increase attention or sales.)
In fact, studies show that the 5 most persuasive words in the English language are:
In Rebbe Nachman's arguably most famous story, The Lost Princess, the struggling hero comes across a spring of what seems to be wine.
Now, he'd seen wine before and he'd seen springs before, but he'd never seen a wine-spring.
Ooh, shiny! New! Intriguing!
As it says:
...and he saw a running spring, and its color was red and the smell was of wine. He asked the servant, "Have you seen? This is a spring, and there ought to be water in it, but its color is red and the smell is of wine!"
But the main thing is to avoid sleep at all costs.
So our struggling hero (who is actually us) -- even though he KNEW to listen to the Princess's instructions and warnings because he'd already failed the year before by eating forbidden apples and falling asleep, and even though he KNEW this was just a distraction from his mission, nonetheless -- our struggling hero decides to make an intellectual, objective study of this unusual phenomenon (which has nothing to do with his urgent mission and is of absolutely no benefit to him or the world) and then:
And he went and tasted from the spring and fell and immediately slept for several years...
- ...it's forbidden to become delayed and investigate, but one must hurry because [this part of the story] represents being forbidden to ask and desire and understand because it's impossible to in any way understand everything intellectually – one must only rely on emuna to do what needs to be done.
- And here, on the last day, the Princess had commanded him to guard himself and so on. And if so, it was forbidden for him to ask and investigate the matter of the spring, but only to fulfill what was necessary and to go extract her.
- For when we investigate a matter, we are possibly trying to explain it away as not being so horrible, and thus we don't completely negate it.
- And in this way, we are liable to stumble.
So what does Rav Bender advise instead, based on the lessons of this story?
- ...to flee from the taavot as one flees from fire, without pondering over, marveling at, or inquiring into them at all.
- And he shouldn't let his thoughts confound him at all.
- ...he should just turn his mind away from them completely and steer his mind to divrei Torah or business dealings or conversations and the like until he is rescued from what he wants to be rescued.
- And one must be a person of unwavering determination [akshan gadol] until he comes out victorious in this war.
Keep Your Mitzvot Fresh & Lush
Does the above mean we should go through life as unthinking horses with blinders?
We can of course ask, desire, investigate, and seek to understand divrei kedushah, things connected with our soul-journey and spiritual work. It's a great mitzvah to delve into Torah and to stretch our minds to understand halacha and to understand what we need to do to achieve self-improvement and rectification.
We should contemplate the best way to help others according to THEIR needs, rather than our own.
We are supposed to develop strategies to avoid lashon hara and use complex thinking to find the good points in others.
We need to brainstorm and work out the best ways to keep our routine mitzvot (like davening and brachot) fresh and new.
But it needs to be focused investigation and seeking, not just indulging our curiosity about everything that comes across our path.
Discover Your Unique Path
He also spoke of taking less-traveled paths in avodat Hashem and this is also hinted at in the above story when our struggling hero spots "a path off to the side" and takes it, which fortuitously leads him to the Palace of the Not Good, where he finally finds the Princess for the first time.
Yet this path off to the side IS the avodat Hashem. It's part of one's tikkun (rectification) and the way to access it is only via hitbodedut -- talking to Hashem in your own words using your personal self-expression.
In other words, the path isn't "new," per se; it's unique.
Because Hashem created us all as unique individuals, no human being can have exactly the same relationship with Hashem as anyone else.
Your relationship with Him is unique to anyone else's relationship with Him.
The Old-New Tricks
- "Ever tried this before?"
- "The newest results of our most recent investigation!" ("Most recent" is just another way of saying "new.")
- "Never before attempted!"
- "Introducing..." (Implies that it's new because it needs to be "introduced.")
- "Suddenly..." (It wasn't there a moment ago -- it's new!)
- "Discover!" (You don't discover something already known, only something new.)
The entertainment industry reels us in this way, as does advertising. But so many science articles with all their intellectual grandstanding also reel us in this way too, as you likely recognized from the above examples, some version of which are commonly found in prestigious peer-reviewed science publications.
Barak Obama won his presidency pretty much based on "New!"
"Change" implies something new on the way and also the idea of "America's first black president!" implies something new, although it's a misleading moniker because he is white as much as he is black, being biracial.
But much of what is presented as "New!" is actually the same old stuff, just with a modern twist.
An Age-Old Insight
עוֹד יְנוּבוּן בְּשֵׂיבָה; דְּשֵׁנִים וְרַעֲנַנִּים יִהְיוּ
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age, they shall be full of sap and fresh.
Picture a fruit-bearing tree that's eternally young and dripping with sap, its leaves lush and green with moisture, and bursting with juicy fruits.
That's our spiritual goal for ourselves.