It was a feature about a brand new technology on Blue Peter. I loved watching Blue Peter as a kid and learned a lot from it. The video was an educational presentation from the stellar trio of Peter Purves, Leslie Judd and John Noakes. One person noted:
‘Great to see that the presenters are being informative and straight talking in an adult and entertaining fashion to their young audience. No “talking down” to the kids, despite the age range of the typical viewers. What has happened to TV in the last couple of decades?’
I think he has a point!
Of course, once I had watched it, YouTube said to me, ‘You like these retro videos, here is another one!’ It looked interesting, it was entitled ‘1966: Children imagine life in the year 2000’ from another great BBC show, Tomorrow’s World, which I also used to watch.
I was not expecting what transpired.
The children (who were all teenagers) spoke, almost unanimously, in very depressing ways.
“I think all these atomic bombs will be dropping around the place …. and the world will become one vast atomic explosion.”
“I don’t think I’ll still be on earth I think I’ll be under the sea, the population will have gone up so much that either everyone will be living in sort of big domes in the sahara or they’ll be under sea.”
“I think that it’ll be so overpopulated there’ll be wars, all nuclear explosions and everything it’ll make the earth you know have too much radiation on it, it’ll become too hot to live on.”
“I think the sea may rise and will sort of cover some of England. There will be just islands left from the highlands in Scotland and some of the big hills in England and Wales.”
“It might freeze, there’s an ice cap coming down from north pole I think it’ll cover the earth, we might have another ice age.”
And then there was Yaacov Avinu.
He was fleeing from an angry brother who had sworn to kill him, according to Chazal, he had been robbed by Esav’s Grandson, so he was also penniless. Things did not look good. He too would have had very depressing ideas about his future and the future of our people.
“The Torah should have written [in reverse order]: “And the sun set, and he stayed there overnight.” [The expression] כִּיבָאהַשֶּׁמֶשׁ implies that the sun set suddenly for him, not at its usual time, so that he would have to stay there overnight.” (Rashi 28:11)
According to Rashi, he was forced to spend the night at ‘Hamakom’ – Har Moriah.
And he arrived at ‘the place’ and lodged there because the sun had set,
The stage is now set for his awesome dream and the promise of a glorious future from Hashem.
“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed. And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall gain strength westward and eastward and northward and southward; and through you shall be blessed all the families of the earth and through your seed. And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you.”
This encounter gives Yaacov renewed vision, boundless energy and an ability to seize the moment.
‘As soon as he was given the good tidings that he was assured protection, his heart lifted his feet, and he became fleet-footed’ (Rashi 29:1)
It is true that Yaacov’s life from here on in was hard and difficult with numerous challenges, he tells Pharaoh toward the end of his life how challenging his life has been. The issues with Rachel and Leah, the rape of Dinah and the ensuing violence and of course the whole saga with Yosef.
Yet, Yaacov knows from this point on, there is a vision, there is a mission, it may take centuries, millennia, but in the end we will reach the purpose of our creation as Hashem has promised.
When I look at the world today toward the end of 2022 we can easily get depressed like those teens of 50 or so years ago. There seems to be so many challenges, the economy, the environment, a rise in anti semitism, a rise in mental health issues, the war in Russia to mention but a few. What sort of future can we expect?
However conversely, we can marvel how far we have come. Never in history has the world lifted so many people out of poverty. How innovation is creating a greener future for the world. How we as the Jewish people have never had such opportunities in terms of our own learning and growth and of course connection to Medinat Yisrael.
Humanity has done remarkably well since 1966, the nightmare scenarios predicted by the teenagers never came to pass. There is a guiding force supervising the planet and He has a vision for us, we have to strive to play our part.
One of the teens did have a different view, she said the following.
“I don’t think there’s anything to be frightened of, a lot of people think the Earth is going to explode, certainly it won’t. I think it’ll be much more efficient because there’ll be more cures for the diseases, and not so many people will get sick.”
She was the tiny minority, with a vision of a better future.
The media love a disaster, love fear mongering, look how the children of the sixties believed it. We have to take our direction from Yaacov, not to blind ourselves to the challenges of the present but to believe in Hashem’s vision for our people and humanity that He demonstrated to Yaacov nearly 4000 years ago.