Rabbi Dovid Hochberg, LGSW
Many years ago in Jerusalem, a young boy approached the great Rabbi, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, with a question.
“Rabbi, he began, “I don't understand something. At the end of the morning prayers on Shabbos morning, we say ‘Ein Ka-lokainu, there is no G-d like our G-d’ and in the next verse we say ‘Mi Ka-lokainu, who is like our G-d?’ Shouldn't the order be reversed? First, we should ask ‘who is like our G-d’ and then we can answer ‘there is no G-d like our G-d.’ Wouldn’t that make more sense?”
Rav Yosef Chaim smiled at the young boy. ”Excellent question, he said. “However, before I answer you, I would like to ask you a question. Have you ever explored the underground caves beneath the Old City?”
The boy nodded. "Of course, I have."
Rav Yosef Chaim continued,“ you know that those caves can be quite dangerous. They are full of twists and turns and people can get lost inside. Aren't you afraid of getting lost inside the caves? How can you be sure that you will able to make it out safely?”
“Well, the boy replied, “I attach a rope, a lifeline, to my waist and secure it to a large rock at the entrance to the cave. This way, I can explore the tunnels as deeply as I want and always make it back safely."
“You have just answered your own question,” Rav Yosef Chaim told the boy. “The question of ‘Who is like our G-d?’ is a very difficult question. People who begin to explore that question can find themselves in great spiritual danger. Yet, one can and should ask that question. However, there is only one safe way to ask that question: Tie a lifeline around yourself before you ask it. ‘There is no G-d like our G-d’ is your lifeline. It is your anchor. Secure that thought in your mind and you can safely explore the difficult question of ‘Who is like our G-d?’ You know that if you get confused, you can always return to your lifeline. You may get scared. You may wander into dangerous spiritual territory. Yet, you will be safe because you have a lifeline.”
This story opens up some powerful ideas. Life can be very challenging and, as you move through it, you may encounter dangerous areas. Areas that can be dangerous to your spirituality, your emotions, your abilities to make good decisions, even your physical health. There are many potential pitfalls. How are you going to make sure that you can navigate the road of life safely?
The answer is simple, but extremely effective. Create and use lifelines. Use your family, your friends, your teachers and your role models. Anchor yourself securely to them. Once you are anchored and have the necessary support, you can explore areas that may be too dangerous to explore on your own. You know that if you have questions or problems, you can always rely on your lifelines.
They can make all the difference.
Rabbi Dovid Hochberg, LGSW, received his Rabbinical Ordination from Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, (Ner Israel) and his Masters of Social Work from University of Maryland. He is Principal of Derech Chaim Academy in Baltimore, an alternative school for Orthodox teens at risk, and a psychotherapist in private practice. He can be reached at 410-952-4392 or firstname.lastname@example.org for consultation.