War and SPD

Shoftim

Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD has gained much notoriety in the last half century. SPD is a neurological disorder in which the process known as “multisensory integration” fails to organize input coming from multiple modalities, such as vision, auditory, tactile and taste.

Another related disorder is Sensory Overload. This occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. Examples are urbanization, crowding, noise and technology.

Different methods have been devised for dealing with these issues. Time-outs, avoidance and setting limits are techniques of escaping the discomfort by reducing the sensory intake. It is however possible to retrain the brain to process a higher level of input and thus prevent an overload from occurring.

When going out to war – an intrinsically terrifying experience – warriors would prey on the enemy’s worries by devastating them with many fearsome noises. They would strike their shields against one another, thereby producing a loud noise, to alarm those confronting them. Additionally they would encourage their horses to stomp and neigh. Lastly they would bellow loudly and blow horns and other kinds of noisy instruments.

The Torah recognizes this tactic and doesn’t suffice itself with stating when you go to battle “you shall not be afraid of them”. Nay, it follows up this general instruction with four warnings “do not be faint hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic and do not be terrified”.

The Talmud teaches us that these four warnings were targeted against four specific methods of intimidation.

  • Do not be faint hearted – Because of the neighing of the horses.
  • Do not be afraid – Because of the crashing shields.
  • Do not panic – At the sounds of their horns.
  • Do not be terrified – Because of the battle cries.

Each noise independently is tolerable; the soldier can cope with a blowing Shofar or a neighing horse. It is the cumulative effect of many threatening noises that help terrorize the army. The Torah has isolated the different sounds with separate instructions. Effectively this provides a tool to diffuse the overwhelming cacophony by training the mind to isolate each individual sound.

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