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The Tightrope of Life

The Tightrope of Life

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My wife’s great uncle, Rabbi Mendel Futerfus, was sentenced to nine years hard labor in a Russian gulag in Siberia because he disseminated Judaism during Stalin’s evil regime.  The assortment of fellow inmates were not imprisoned there for “holy” crimes perpetrated against communism, but were overwhelmingly incarcerated because of real criminal activities. Reb Mendel loved people and served as the spiritual leader to his fellow prisoners. One inmate once related to Reb Mendel that he was a tightrope walker, and proceeded to walk across a rope stretched between two trees. When Reb Mendel asked him how he could accomplish such a feat, he shared with him his secret. “Always focus on your destination and you won’t fall down.” Reb Mendel continued to focus on his goal of one day being free to serve his people and he ultimately became the spiritual mentor of Chabad in Israel.

An old Chassidic song goes “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing to recall is to have no fear at all.” Our lives are about building and maintaining bridges.  Connecting links from one finite point to another that allow us to courageously reach our destinations without succumbing to the fear of falling down.

These tightropes connect us to each other, to our future, and to our G‑d. It is during this time of the year that we examine the high wires that connect us to all the important relationships in our lives. These are the “Thick cords of love” that bond us with G‑d, family and the Jewish people.

It is on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that we officially inspect the state of our ropes.  Are they taut, or have they slackened over the year because of the strain and stress that are exerted upon them? Do they need to be replaced or just retied? Ironically, it seems that the most important affinities with the tightest cords of connection are the ones that need the most attention. These are the ones most likely to become frayed as they are tested again and again over the course of the year.

In part, it is awareness of the tenuous nature of these kinships that make them so precious. It is what we do when those associations are damaged that reflects the inner strength of the fiber that binds them together. Our sages tell us that a broken relationship is like a torn rope, not easily mended, however, once reattached, the rope is even stronger than before.

Rosh Hashana is the day when we reattach those wires, to plug into our soul and create strong bonds with our loved ones and Hashem. We can establish, reestablish, or just confirm our ties with the most valuable parts of our lives. By sounding the Shofar, we are awakened from our “Spiritual slumber” we are so easily lulled into by the mind numbing pace of our frenetic lifestyles. Charged with a sense of urgency, we are ready to become connected again.

Yom Kippur is the designated date to mend the torn and broken bridges that have been neglected or need to be rebuilt. To address the missed opportunities to say “I love you”, “Let’s spend more time together”, or “I’m sorry.” Each missed chance is a crack in the rope stifling the free flow of love and care to reach their destinations. Once we have pondered the cause of the damage (harsh words, indifference, or ego), then the frail supports of the bridge can be reset and a free interchange of traffic can resume.

The process of rebuilding our affinity with G‑d leads us to the most startling discovery of all.  As neglected as the bridge may be, this connection can never be severed.  When we dig down deep enough, we always find an intact bond.  Hashem has been there all along, waiting patiently for our return.  This rope stretches out over eternity.  Knowing that G‑d is always there, we can never fall and our destinations can all be reached.  May this year bring us, and all of Israel, a sweet and happy new year where all our goals are realized.

 

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