Rabbi Mendel Futerfas, who spent many years in a Siberian gulag, tells how he learned a great lesson from a tightrope walker who was also in prison there. The Rabbi asked the tightrope walker about the secret to his art: “What does one need to master balance? Stamina? Concentration?”
The tightrope walker’s answer surprised him: “the secret is always keeping your destination in focus. You have to keep your eye on the other end of the rope. But you know what the hardest part is?”
“When you get to the middle?” the Rabbi ventured.
“No,” said the tightrope walker, “it is when you make the turn, because for a fraction of a second you lose sight of your destination. When you don't have sight of your destination that is when you're most likely to fall.”
Life is something like a tightrope, to navigate it successfully you must have your destination in focus, you must know where you are going. When the time comes to make a turn and for a moment you cannot see where you're headed you have to have your destination in your mind's eye,
The ultimate destination, the final goal of all human efforts throughout history, as described by our prophets, is a time when “the entire land will be filled with knowledge of Hashem.” This is the entire purpose of geula, redemption, and the purpose of mashiach: so we can gain knowledge and clarity of existence and our purpose and ultimately lead the world to greater refinement. The Jewish people have always kept their eye on this destination and it has given them the power and freedom to forge your head despite all difficulties. Whether through breaking the glass under a chuppah, or singing “Ani Ma’amin” (I believe in the coming of the Mashiach), or keeping Jerusalem in one’s heart and mind, we have held on to the belief that, the world is not yet perfected and, yes, ultimate peace is possible.
Geula, is not a destination you can see by looking in front of you, you can only see it by looking inside of you.; Real focus is not physical it is transcendental; real focus is your relationship with your divine mission. If it is well developed you can go past the moments of danger and keep moving with confidence even through moments of the greatest fear and darkness.
“The entire world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to be scared”. So said Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and by keeping our mission in mind, both one’s personal and our collective mission, we can truly cross that bridge without fear.
In this light, it is a perfect time and opportunity (as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah), to contemplate:
- am I aware of my own mission in life?
- If so, am I living it or allowing things to distract me from it?
- If not, am I thinking about it or speaking to a mentor who can help me gain clarity on it?
The Jewish month of Elul is a perfect time for this. Elul is called the Month of Teshuva. Teshuva means “return”. We return (reconnect) to our divine essence and ultimately all of existence to its appropriate place. The experience of this is to live from a place of aliveness where one feels they are manifesting themselves, rather than trudging through life.
We should have a meaningful Elul for the quality of this month and the preparation for Rosh Hashanah dictates the significance and meaning that we will have once the holiday comes.
Shabbat Shalom U’mevorach