As Rav Schwartz states toward the end:
For example, a plane crashed this week.
Is there anyone here who knows the real reason of what led to its crash?
Is there anyone who we can believe about why it happened?
The only way to know is through Ruach HaKodesh, or else you are hearing lies.
There is no news which we can truly believe.
Unfortunately, I have the same problem as a lot of people in that I desire to read the news. Yes, I've placed some strong fences around that desire (like basically limiting my reading to Hamodia and 1 or 2 other sources, and also try to limit it to once a day or even every other day).
But I'm often not successful with checking the news only once a day or less and anyway, my ultimate goal is to wean myself off it completely (unless there is something I absolutely must know).
Reading what Rav Avigdor Miller & Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus said about the news, plus what Rav Schwartz says has been very helpful.
Also, Rav Shalom Arush points out that much of the news isn't actually news, but predictions about what WILL happen; it's not even factual events, but fortune-telling.
And they are so often wrong.
Furthermore, because of the stubbornly rationalist perception of everything, underlying factors are not researched or acknowledged, even if a very obvious connection between a person's behavior and an outcome is plainly seen.
In fact, sometimes the people themselves, whether they're Jewish or not, state their belief that they or someone else was saved in the spiritual merit of a specific act or positive habit or simply "by the grace of God," yet that is never included in the rationalist investigation.
So let's look at 2 examples of success, which deeper research reveals underlying factors behind their achievements.
Modesty: McDonald's Secret to Success?
Why not Burger King or Wendy's?
Yeah, I understand that it's possible to track McDonald's success by Ray Kroc's driven intervention & eventual takeover, plus a number of steps taken by McDonald's that appealed to the public.
But the question is WHY? Why did McDonald's merit this intervention and these steps while no other chain did?
I wanted to investigate the underlying reason for McDonald's success — did Richard & Maurice McDonald have a special merit that enabled their widespread success?
So I read a thick biography of McDonald's and noted something very interesting...
One of the striking aspects of the McDonald's that opened in 1940 in San Bernadino, California, was its emphasis on tsniyus (dressing & behaving with dignity & modesty).
Despite the common impression of that era as prim, maybe even prudish, the drive-in restaurants of those times hosted a pretty wanton environment.
The young waitresses (called carhops because of how they hopped onto the outer step of a car to claim their customer) who served the drive-in customers (either on foot or on rollerskates) were often immodestly dressed and engaged in mutual flirting with the young male customers.
Some of these places had big windows in the kitchen and one account of these places recalled seeing the male cook & one of the female carhops shameless acting out their hormones right there in full view of anyone passing by the window, rather than tending to the meal orders.
Clearly, not a family-friendly place.
Richard & Maurice sought to change that.
So they forbade any hanky-panky between employees and employees & customers.
Also, they eliminated the carhops & the entire culture that accompanied the carhops, though they started hiring females again in the mid-Sixties (but as regular servers, not carhops).
Female employees needed to dress modestly, which included hair held back in a ponytail and no makeup.
This newfound spiritual hygiene combined with actual hygiene (McDonald's restaurants were also pretty clean) attracted young families looking for cheap, fast meals.
It might seem like a stretch to say that the institution of appropriate behavior and dress led to McDonald's astounding success, but we are constantly reminded throughout Tanach how much Hashem really hates licentious behavior and also, the prohibition against gilui arayot is one of the 7 mitzvot of Bnei Noach for non-Jews.
Furthermore, Rav Avigdor Miller postulated (can't remember where) that the economic success of several Arab countries is possibly related to its public emphasis on modest dress and behavior for both men and women. They also don't allow toeva.
Yes, we all know what goes on there behind closed doors, but the facts are that walking down the streets in most Arab countries is spiritually safer than almost anywhere else.
Likewise, this could also be true for McDonald's, hence its spectacular success.
Yet that won't be emphasized when examining McDonald's history of success; you'll mostly hear about Ray Kroc (who emphasized the modesty of female employees).
But I believe the really truth behind McDonald's success is its attention to tsniyut.
The Key to at Least One Incident of Titanic Survival?
His descent off the Titanic was far smoother than most, plus he was in below freezing (28°F/-2°C) water for at least 2-3 hours (probably 4), a temperature that should have rendered him unconscious within 15 minutes and killed him within 45 minutes.
According to some reports (like that of John "Jack" Thayer), the Titanic passengers in the water ceased screaming with 30 minutes (survivor Lawrence Beesley said it was 40 minutes), including those saved from drowning by the life vest they wore.
It was simply too cold.
Furthermore, Joughin was short & drunk, 2 factors which increase the effects of hypothermia.
Initially, investigators thought that Joughin's drunkenness kept his body warm enough to survive.
Even today, theorists see-saw about this.
Apparently, low to moderate amounts of alcohol increase hypothermia.
But large amounts can reduce it. Sometimes.
Alcohol draws body heat away from vital organs to the extremities, yet one theorist suggested that the shock of the freezing water tightened Joughin's blood vessels so that his body heat remained in the vital organs.
This is a real stretch, however, because it still cannot explain how Joughin survived hours in below-freezing water, and then another couple of hours in a boat in cold air while wearing freezing wet clothes.
It also doesn't explain the only harm Joughin suffered from his ordeal: swollen feet.
Rationalists try to rationalize Joughin's survival by saying he wasn't actually in the water for as long as estimated, but that doesn't pare up with the Joughin's account of treading water until daybreak, upon when he was able to see the upturned boat (whose men were also in the water holding onto it, of whom some died from the cold) and only later was transferred to another boat, whose passengers hauled him in.
The Titanic went down at 2:20AM, daybreak was around 4:15-5:40 (depending if he meant literal daybreak with enough light to see or actual sunrise), and Boat 12 only hauled in Joughin at around 6:30AM.
Then he was sitting in wet freezing clothes in freezing air until the Carpathia came to rescue the survivors around 4:00AM, but it took over 4 hours to collect all the survivors and Boat 12 with Joughin was only collected at around 8:30AM — the last lifeboat rescued.
UPDATE: In the official inquiry, Joughin said that upon going back to his room, he saw flooding which covered his feet up to his ankles. This means that even before he entered the ocean, his feet were soaked with freezing water and he also spent a lot of time outside in freezing weather BEFORE getting his whole body in the water — which adds to his miraculous survival because his feet weren't in good shape, temperature-wise, even before the ship sank.
Again, many have tried to explain Joughin's survival with logical explanations that actually make no sense.
Here are some of the illogical explanations:
- Joughin wasn't as drunk as he claimed.
- Joughin was overweight.
- Joughin wasn't in the water as long as he claimed.
- Joughin's head didn't get wet (or only "barely wetted").
- Joughin was moving a lot in the water, which kept his body heat up.
- In 32.5°F/0.3°C water, hypothermia causes unconsciousness in less than 15 minutes, with a maximum survival time of only 45 minutes.
The water around the Titanic was even colder than that: 28°F/-2°C.
- Being moderately drunk can shorten that time, being very drunk may possibly extend that time, but being sober cannot extend that time.
However, it's absurd to say that survival time was extended by double or quadruple the time due to the generous alcohol in the system.
And again, 3-4 hours was the time Joughin spent in the water. He was also in boat in the open air for another 2 hours.
Again, other people who spent only several minutes in the water died in the boats due to hypothermia.
The boat cannot be the factor that saved Joughin's life.
- Joughin was a stocky guy, but not seriously fat. And again, can even an obese person extend the expected survival time past 45 minutes? And even if obesity can extend survival, can obesity extend survival time to 3-4 hours? Anyway, he wasn't so fat.
- While only Joughin witnessed himself as the last survivor off the ship (which put him in the water around 2:20AM), the 25-30 men standing on the upturned Collapsible B (including Lightoller and a kitchen worker who held Joughin's hand while Joughin remained in the water) witnessed Joughin remaining in the water (estimated at 1-2 hours) until Joughin spotted Boat 12 and swam over to request rescue.
Again, just to emphasize: The ship went down at 2:20. Daybreak was at 4:15. Joughlin was in the water that entire time and we have 25-30 witnesses who not only saw him, but ALSO saw him still in the water for another 1-2 hours as he held on to their upturned collapsible.
- Even if you want to pinch the times (and claim that Joughin spotted Collapsible B at daybreak, not sunrise, and Boat 12 pulled him out of the water earlier than 6:30AM), no one can deny that Joughin was alive in freezing water for at least twice the time any study says he should have been. Really, the minimal time you can squeeze it down to is 2.5 hours (like if you say that Boat 12 arrived MUCH earlier than reported) and that is not realistic and doesn't match up with the reports, making such an estimate imaginary thinking.
- And regarding those who insist that his physical action kept him alive: Where is the evidence that swimming & treading can extend survival time hours past the 45 minute mark?
- Also, according to science, Joughin should have succumbed to unconsciousness within 15 minutes (which would prevent body heat produced by physical movement and also have prevented his own rescue, in which he took an active part).
The fact that he was able to direct his body in the right directions and hold onto things and speak is unbelievable.
So even if we postulate that physical movement extended his consciousness past 15 minutes, can it extend it for hours? Does it make any sense that he was able to maintain such a high degree of consciousness a minimum of 12 times beyond the documented limit? (And as indicated above, everything points to Joughin being in the water 4 hours — 16 times beyond the documented limit.)
- And finally: He didn't get his head wet. Seriously? That will extend both consciousness & life hours past the documented survival point?
I don't think so.
So we see that all the rationales quickly become irrational.
To gain some kind of understanding of Joughin's miraculous survival (including the fact that the group originally forbade Joughin from grabbing onto the collapsible, but fellow cook Isaac Maynard recognized Joughin & extended his hand and held onto Joughin as Joughin grasped the upturned collapsible while remaining in the water).
To garner at least some insight into both miraculous survival of Joughin in the water, plus the miraculous occurrences that saved him (Joughin's very smooth descent from the Titanic, Maynard "incidentally" on the collapsible and being willing to hold onto Joughin when Maynard's position was already precarious, plus the rendezvous with Boat 12 and their willingness to rescue Joughin, and more), we need to take a look at Joughin's behavior from the time the Titanic hit the iceberg until it sank.
In other words, we need to look at what Joughin did before he ever hit the water.
Charles Joughin's Series of Selfless Lifesaving Acts
Off-duty in his bunk when the ship hit the iceberg at 11:40PM, Joughin both felt the impact and immediately sought the reason for it.
Upon learning that the upper-deck officers were preparing the lifeboats for launching, Joughin immediately ordered his staff to supply all the rescue boats with loaves of bread — 40 pounds of bread per boat.
UPDATE: The lifeboats were already supplied with a type of sturdy bread they called biscuits, but of his own accord, Joughin sought to supply far more bread.
Seeing as the survivors were in the boats for several hours in freezing weather until rescue, these loaves of bread indeed assisted the survivors, granting them sustenance and much-need calories for body heat.
Joughin arrived to assist with the rescue boats around 12:30AM. There, he helped the other officers in filling Lifeboat 10 with women & children.
However, many women balked at entering the lifeboats.
Remember, the Titanic was considered unsinkable. Lifeboats were meant more for transferring passengers from a damaged ship to a rescue ship (which is why the Titanic held only enough lifeboats for half its passengers) rather than seaworthy vessels on their own.
Furthermore, the management of the lifeboats was clumsy, the sea was black, the night was dark, and the air was freezing.
And they had no idea of when they'd be rescued or if they'd be rescued. (How would they be found in the dark with no radio?)
Yet Joughin refused to give up. Instead, he ran down one deck lower to grab women & children and force them into the lifeboat.
This act saved several lives.
UPDATE: In the official inquiry, Joughin said that in addition to helping women & children into the lifeboat, he ran after and physically grabbed 2 mothers & 3 children and either handed or tossed them into the lifeboat, saving their lives.
Then Joughin was assigned as captain of that very Lifeboat 10, but refused to enter because there it was already manned by Titanic officers.
UPDATE: When asked by the inquiry why he didn't enter the lifeboat, especially since he had been assigned to it as captain, Joughin stated: "I would have set a bad example if I had jumped into the boat."
So Lifeboat 10 left without him.
In other words, he put others' lives before his own.
Then Joughin headed back to his bunk to drink what he officially claimed was half a tumbler of liqueur (not sure how much this is) and when he returned to Boat Deck, all the lifeboats were gone.
(By the way, "tumbler half-full of liqueur" was Joughin's testimony, however, I read that family of Joughin recall him saying that he downed copious amounts of vodka or whiskey, and then went back to the deck again.)
At that point, he threw around 50 folding chairs into the ocean to be used as flotation devices.
UPDATE: Originally, I thought Joughlin must have done it for others because he had a lifevest. But in the inquiry, he plainly admitted: "I was looking out for something for myself, Sir."
I do not know if the chairs actually helped anyone. In fact, it seems that it didn't. But the gesture certainly could have assisted others. He couldn't have used all 50 of them himself. (And as far as I know, he never even used one of them.)
Thirsty, Joughin went to the pantry for water and was in the middle of drinking when he heard a crash, like the ship was buckling.
This was the Titanic starting to break in half.
And this is when a series of miracles occurred to keep Joughin alive until rescue.
Charles Joughin's Series of Miracles
Everyone — except for Joughin.
As we know, the Titanic broke in two, with the back of the ship rising up to stand almost perpendicular to the water.
At this point, Joughin should have been pulled down by the force of the ship going down (some of the people in the water were pulled down this way and some of the survivors were almost pulled down this way but escaped the suction somehow).
He also should have suffered from the freezing shock to his system, which usually causes people to freeze or suffer a heart attack.
But he didn't.
Instead, he treaded water for 2 hours until daybreak (around 4:15AM; sunrise was around 5:20-5:40AM), when he spotted Collapsible B, which was upturned with 25-30 men standing on it to keep it balanced.
This definitely should not have happened because hypothermia-induced confusion & unconsciousness occur within 15 minutes of immersion in freezing water.
Yet for a minimum of 2 hours (and possibly more), Joughin was lucid enough to make intelligent decisions and control his body.
There is also something called immersion-hypothermia, which can fatally shock the body for the first couple minutes upon hitting cold water, but let's say that perhaps the alcohol impaired immersion-hypothermia because Joughin said he didn't feel cold when he entered the water.
Anyway, Joughin headed for the upturned Collapsible B, but they initially told him there was no room.
(Indeed, the men were balanced precariously on the upturned collapsible.)
Fortunately, Isaac Maynard, one of the cooks working under Joughin recognized the Chief Baker and bent to hold one of Joughin's hands while Joughin's other hand held onto the edge of the upturned collapsible.
And...Joughin's body remained in the below-freezing water.
Again, this is another miraculous "coincidence" that Joughin ended up close enough to the collapsible AND that someone who knew him AND was sympathetic to him recognized him AND was willing to risk his own precarious position to save Joughin.
Boat 12 came into view around 6:30AM, at which point Joughin swam over to request rescue AND they agreed to haul him in. (Several of the lifeboats could have initially rescued people in the water, but either the sailors or the passengers refused to allow it for fear of being swamped or capsizing the lifeboat.)
And even if that time is not completely accurate and, say, Boat 12 arrived before 6:30, Joughin is still in the water a perplexing long time (around 4 hours by this calculation) and still lucid — which he should not be — and still able to mentally reason & force his body to obey his will.
This is simply not possible.
Please also realize that Boat 12 was heavily overload with 69 people. Yet they agreed to squeeze in Joughin anyway, even though his cold, wet presence could only add to their misery — another miracle.
(The lifeboats had room for 40 sitting people or 65 standing people.)
I'm sure the body heat of the crowded boat warmed up Joughin some, but he was still in soaked freezing clothing in freezing weather in one of the last boats to be rescued by the Carpathia — around 8:15-8:30AM.
To compare, other people rescued from the water died in the lifeboat. People hanging on in the water to the upturned Collapsible B died from hypothermia. In another lifeboat which had taken on water, 2 people died from hypothermia because of their feet in freezing water.
At the time, Joughin himself and others felt that his alcoholic state saved his life. Certainly, it kept him from feeling cold, as he later described that he did not feel so cold in the water.
However, as explained above, further research of the effects of alcohol on hypothermia show that alcohol speeds hypothermia by directing heat away from vital organs & to the extremities.
Sometimes, copious amounts of alcohol seem to slow the effects of hypothermia, but again, not for so many hours.
Regardless, the water temperature alone should have prevented Joughin from surviving.
It should have also prevented him from thinking or functioning.
The fact that a series of miracles (other than the fact that he did not suffer hypothermia while soaked in below-freezing water for 3-4 hours) occurred from the time the Titanic split until his rescue by the Carpathia also needs to factored into his unbelievable story.
When There is No Rational Reason for the Irrational
We cannot know Joughin's past-life experiences which may have factored into his miraculous survival, nor do we know of other acts on his part or the part of his parents that factored into the Heavenly merit that saved him.
However, it all goes back to the original point that when documentaries and investigators delve into the the factors affecting disaster or survival, they cannot actually know why something happened, for better or for worse.
Of course, plane crashes and other disasters need to be investigated to prevent the derech-hateva causes from re-occurring.
But the idea that we can truly know is preposterous.
As Officer Charles Lightoller, another miracle survivor on the upturned Collapsible B who credited his survival to prayer & faith, said:
"...with God, all things are possible."