Positive Vision - Day 66
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 66 - I Am Who I Am - The Peril of a Comfort Zone
The teacher and his student were taking a hike in a remote forest outside the city. They walked absentmindedly deeper and deeper, turned a bend, and suddenly found themselves facing a surprising, but disturbing sight. Before them was a dilapidated house. The parents were sitting outside and three barefoot children, wearing torn and dirty clothing, were playing in the front yard. The teacher approached the man of the household, a dour-looking fellow, shook his hand, and after making small talk, asked him.
"You live here in the middle of nowhere. There is no work or business here. How do you survive?"
"Well, I'll tell ya," the man shrugged and said in a soft drawl, "as you can see, it ain't easy, but we have this little cow that gives a couple of liters of milk every day. I go to the nearest village, sell a little, and buy some food for the wife and kids. With the rest we make yogurt and cheese. We get by."
The teacher thought about this for a moment and looked around. He smiled, wished the man a good day and turned to head back home. After they had traveled a short distance he turned to his student and told him, "See that cliff over there. Quietly sneak back to the house, steal the cow, and toss it off that cliff." The student was too shocked to reply. He stared for a moment open mouthed and when he found his voice he started arguing passionately with his teacher. "But this is their only cow! Their only source of money! They'll starve to death!" He kept on pushing but the teacher refused to budge. Reluctantly, the student obeyed. He stole the cow, shoved it off the cliff, and watched as it bounced from stone to stone to its death. The image was burned into his mind.
Several years passed. The memory of what he had done and his guilt feelings drove him to distraction, so he traveled back to the forest to find the family, confess, and offer them any help he could.
However, as he approached the house he noted a definite change. Trees were freshly planted, the house had been remodeled, and normally dressed children were happily frolicking in the front yard. The student figured that the family must have sold the house in desperation. With a sense of dread he knocked on the door to seek information in locating the previous owners. The door swung open and facing him was the very man he had met several years before, though barely recognizable. He was dressed nicely, and wore a big smile on his face.
The student introduced himself, "Remember me? I was here several years ago with my teacher."
The man smiled and the student duly noted the improvement and inquired what happened. The man smiled.
"Well, I don't know if you remember but we used to have a little cow. It fell off a cliff shortly after you were here and died. So we had to figure out another way to make money. My wife and I learned some other skills and looks like we're doin' just fine. Go figure."
"Indeed," thought the student. "Go figure."
Of course, this is only a mashal )stealing is always forbidden(, but it conveys an important lesson.
We all have our comfort zones. The place where we tell ourselves, "Look. I'm just being honest with myself. This is who I am. There is as far as I can go. I need my distractions, just something to help me 'chill,' and calm down after a long day at the office."
This thinking is terribly self-limiting and completely untrue.
We can always strive to reach higher levels and push ourselves farther. Nothing bad will happen to us if we restrict our exposure, and conversely, everything good will happen.