Rabbi Label Lam
More Fragile Than Glass
All the people we saw were huge! There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the
giant from among the Nephilim; we were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so
we were in their eyes. (Bamidbar 13:32-33)
If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, than you are
not you and I am not I. But if I am I because I am I, and you are you
because you are you, then you are you and I am I. (The Kotzker Rebbe)
When Lady Di died, suddenly and tragically, I wondered at the time, as many
others, what had been the cause of her death and what practical lesson
could be learned from it all. I developed my own supra-rational approach to
the subject. Let's try it on for size.
The Chovos HaLevavos, The Duties of the Heart states a general rule with
wide applications. "Whoever does not rely on The A-lmighty is relying upon
something else....whether it's his wealth or good looks or
strength....Hashem leaves him in the limited hands of that which he relies
Whatever we trust becomes our boss. We serve its needs. We defend its honor
as our own. We are desperate for its success and security, because we by
design or default believe in it and we need it to survive.
If one relies upon a certain politician or an employer to ensure his well
being, he will do almost anything; even to change principles, to see that
person succeed. His enemies become yours. His friends are your comrades.
One is literally made by his victories and destroyed by his failure. All of
one's hopes are wrapped up in that vulnerable package, which when
threatened yields panic and desperation.
To understand the standard of "reliance upon", we have a law in the arena
of prayer, that one should not lean upon a lectern or anything else (under
normal healthy conditions) while praying. What is considered "leaning
upon"? If that object would suddenly be removed then the person would
become immediately destabilized.
We've all heard the phrase, "Live by the sword, die by the sword!" It's not
just a Karma phenomenon. If one thinks he can gain advantage in life by
employing the sword, relying upon the might of his arms, that person will
soon enough discover the weakness of his own methodology.
Similarly, if one lives by the media they die by the media. If one's entire
image is a balloon built by media air but essentially an empty bubble, and
one believes in the illusion that the publicity creates, one may actually
flee with dying desperation from a camera that threatens to pierce the veil
of the myth.
Ironically, that same camera that opened a window through which Alice could
be viewed seeks now with even more appetite to create a new cycle of news.
After having built up the heroine larger than life, now attempts to
publicly dismantle her. The illusion in the mirror and the mirror are
shattered in the process.
The Alter from Navardock trained his students to survive the worst
conditions by having them carry out foolish exercises such as attempting to
purchase a loaf of bread in a hardware store, and a hammer at a bakery.
They thereby hoped to conquer the need for public approval as a means of
being guided through life, realizing that we are at constant risk of
becoming prisoners of the ones we seek to impress.
The Maharal points out two elements as the symbol of pure materialism and
hence low esteem. The donkey- a beast of burden lives only to carry stuff.
His identity is eclipsed by the value of the object he has on his back.
Water too takes the shape of the vessel that holds it. In that sense, it
has nothing of it's own.
The spies, whose discouraging words caused a forty-year detour in the
desert betrayed more than themselves when they said that "We were like
grasshoppers in our eyes and so we were in their eyes!" One who lives in a
mirror is made of something more fragile than glass.
Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.