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The Tightrope

The Tightrope

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Rabbi Mendel Futerfass spent several years of his life in a Soviet labor camp. He later related that one of the ways that he kept his sanity was to constantly engage his mind in the Chassidic practice, set forth by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, that "From everything that a person sees or hears, he should derive a lesson in his service of G‑d." Some very profound insights came from some very unusual teachers.

For instance, one of the prisoners claimed to be a tightrope walker.

Reb Mendel didn't believe him because he couldn't imagine why a person would waste his time walking on a rope and risk falling on his head, when he could just walk on the ground like everyone else. But when the evil Stalin died and the government eased up the pressure on the camps, some of the inmates decided to make a celebration and the tightrope walker saw his chance to prove himself.

He found a long thick rope somewhere in the camp, attached it to the side of a building about ten feet above the ground, stretched it to another building about fifteen yards away and attached it there at the same height. For a long time he was up on a ladder pulling, testing and fastening until everything was finally ready.

A crowd gathered around. The man removed his shoes and gingerly but unceremoniously climbed up the ladder onto the rope.

Reb Mendel was one of the first to get interested, and he explained what happened:

"First he climbed up onto the rope, took a few steps, lost his balance and fell. But he knew how to fall, like a cat. He waited a few seconds and climbed up again and fell again the same way. But eventually he started walking, and then dancing from one foot to the other to the rhythm of the clapping onlookers.

"Then he got to the end, turned around, danced back to where he started, and climbed down amidst the applause and cheering of the crowd.

"After shaking everyone's hand he walked over to me and said with a satisfied smile on his face. 'Well Rabbi, what do you think now?'

"I told him I was impressed, but I couldn't help wondering how he did it. How could he walk on such a thin rope without falling off? After much prompting he finally revealed his secret. 'I fix my eye on where I'm going,' he said, 'and never even think about falling'.

"He waited a few seconds for me to digest the answer, and then said: 'Do you know what was the hardest part? Turning around! When you turn around you lose sight of the goal for a second. It takes a long time to learn to turn around!'"

A popular teacher, musician and storyteller, Rabbi Tuvia Bolton is co-director of Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel, and a senior lecturer there.
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Discussion (6)
December 10, 2012
If you want to reach higher goals in life......
Look at those who have attained great success.

However if you want to be satisfied with your life, look at those who have not yet attained that station in life that you've achieved!
Joan Siegel
Boulder, Colorado
thechabadhouse.com
December 5, 2012
A Wonderful Lesson of Life success ... !!!
"From everything that a person sees or hears, he should derive a lesson in his service of G-d." How could he walk on such a thin rope without falling off? After much prompting he finally revealed his secret. 'I fix my eye on where I'm going,' he said, 'and never even think about falling'. That U So Much ... !!!
Stan
Canada
June 15, 2012
What can keep you happy & content
If you can have and keep a good attitude life will be worthwhile, and you will have a good affect on everyone you meet.

Try it, you'll like it!
Joan Siegel
Boulder, colorado, USA
thechabadhouse.com
October 31, 2005
Reply to 'Turns'
Chabad says keep your eye on the goal; Moshiach, and the only way to get there is a lot of Simcha.
Moshiach NOW!
Rabbi Bolton
Kfar CHabad, iSRAEL
mychabad.org
October 31, 2005
Turns
There is a saying that "insanity is expecting different results from the same behavior." Even the goal that is right before our eyes sometimes requires some turns for us to get there, and sometimes our fears or our conditioning keeps use from change. Remember what Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, "The world is a narrow bridge, the main thing is not to be afraid."
Eric S. Kingston
North Hollywood, CA
February 7, 2005
Thank you for the tightrope story
thank you very much for this story
Anonymous
Cullercoats, tyne & Wear