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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


 

November 3, 2017  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Living on the bridge

By RABBI AARON M LEVER, BCC Gulfside Hospice and Pasco Palliative Care

The great Hasidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav (1772- 1810) taught: Kol ha-olam kulo gesher tzar m’od –“The whole world is a very narrow bridge” – v’ha-ikar lo l’facheid k’lal – “and the main thing is not to fear.”

In my office, I have a beautiful artistic rendition of this teaching painted by Jackie Olenick that depicts a narrow footbridge connecting two steep mountains. I look upon this painting every day as I do my sacred work as a hospice chaplain at Gulfside Hospice. After regularly seeing these powerful words and images, I felt drawn to explore what Rabbi Nachman’s teaching means to me.

“The whole world is a very narrow bridge” ­– How can the whole world be a narrow bridge? How can something so vast be so small? I believe Rabbi Nachman is talking about one’s life perspective. In the face of a major life change or crisis – the loss of one’s job, foreclosure of one’s home, moving to a new place, a car accident, divorce, the diagnosis of a terminal illness, or death of a loved one – our thoughts, feelings, and energy become focused on the difficult situation at hand.

As Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz describes in his book Healing from Despair, our lives and the way we view our world can become narrow, unstable, and even terrifying. In his book Making Loss Matter, Rabbi David Wolpe suggests that our lives consist of journeying from one bridge to another. No one’s life is immune to change. We are vulnerable, and our lives are fragile. At times, we all have lived on one of those bridges of change in a state of despair.

“And the main thing is not to fear” – while at times our world may feel like a very narrow bridge, Rabbi Nachman says the main thing is not to fear. Is this a reasonable expectation? In the midst of danger, threat, and uncertainty, it is normal to feel anxious and afraid as we wonder what the future may bring. This is how I understand Rabbi Nachman’s powerful words: yes, the whole world is a narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to be paralyzed by our fear – but to have the faith that we will not fall off the bridge and the hope that some how we will make it to the other side. When we are no longer paralyzed by our fear and anxiety, we can breathe and expand our world to make room for recognizing the goodness and blessing in our lives in-spite of the crisis at hand and to experience moments of happiness even during the most challenging times in our lives.

“The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is not fear.” In times of crisis and despair, may the wisdom of Rabbi Nachman’s words offer us the comfort and strength to live on the bridge with hope and even joy.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association, which assigns the column on a rotating basis.


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