Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Narrow Bridge

Prof. Shalom Rosenberg, In the Footsteps of the Kuzari, vol. 1 p. 306:

What is the meaning of the “very narrow bridge?” I reached an understanding of this famous Breslav saying thanks to a childhood experience. Many years ago, my father took me to a certain place across a certain river. We couldn’t return the way we had come, because rain had fallen in the interim, and the bridge was flooded. The only option was to go up the mountain and cross a very narrow train bridge. Someone took me by the hand and helped me across.

Click here to read moreWhy couldn’t I do it alone? Neurologically, I certainly was capable of fulfilling such a task. How is it that I could easily walk between two close lines, yet, I could not walk across a bridge much wider than that? The answer is that I was afraid. It was not the difficulty of the task that stopped me; it was the fear. This is what Rabbi Nahman meant when he said, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to fear.”

Man’s greatest enemy is not outside himself. It lies within. Man invests tremendous energy to repel powerful foes, yet the most powerful are inside us. This idea has psychological ramifications, but what interests us is the philosophical aspect. Philosophers have tried to teach us philosophically proven truths. Rabbi Nahman teaches us that help will come not from the outside but from within ourselves. Just as I can cross the narrow bridge if I do not fear, so can I reach truth if I choose to believe.

We can add an addendum to Rabbi Nahman’s story, a motif taken from cartoons. Remember the fox chasing the rabbit? The rabbit reaches the valley, where there is a rope bridge. We see the rabbit cross the bridge. Then he loosens the ropes and the bridge falls down. The fox does not realize this, and he continues to run on the bridge as though it were there. Only when he reaches the middle of the “bridge” does he stop, look down, see the bridge and then . . . fall. This is the continuation of Rabbi Nahman’s story. This is, in essence, the concept of faith. Faith builds the bridge.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More