When I was nine or ten years old I received my first serious instruction in Chassidic philosophy, although I didn't recognize it as such at the time.

In those days I spent many of my Sunday afternoons with my cronies at the movie theater watching cartoons. Of the hundreds of cartoons that I must have seen, one stands out in my memory. The protagonist was a speedy, clever little bird called the Road-Runner, and the villain was a voracious and exceedingly dumb coyote. The cartoon depicted several abortive attempts by the coyote to make a meal of the Road-Runner. In one scene, the Road-Runner raced to the edge of a cliff and hid behind a rock. The coyote, however, was so absorbed in the chase that he didn't notice the precipice and ran right off the edge. He maintained his stride, in midair, oblivious to his impossible situation and in defiance of the law of gravity, until eventually it occurred to him that the road-runner was nowhere in sight. He screeched to a stop and turned to look back. He saw the road-runner watching him from the edge of the cliff, and he began to realize that he was in major trouble. He slowly looked down and only then, when it was crystal clear to him that he was standing on thin air, did he fall.

Although this cartoon was undoubtedly produced with no loftier aim than the entertainment of children, it contains a profound insight that I was able to appreciate only after learning Chassidut for a number of years. The coyote fell specifically as a consequence of looking down. The fact that he had no trouble until he directed his vision netherward clearly indicated that he was not subject to natural law until he accepted it upon himself. Had he not looked down, had he not shackled himself with a world-oriented deterministic view of reality, had he not succumbed to conventional wisdom as to what is possible and what is not, he could have continued walking on air.

We Jews have been trying to absorb this lesson since our inception as people over 3000 years ago. Our father Abraham had no problem with this concept. He answered to no one, feared nothing, and believed in nothing aside from the Almighty. Fire couldn't burn him, and water couldn't drown him because he accorded them no recognition whatsoever. It was not that he relied on miracles, but rather that his vision was constantly directed upward toward his Creator and he never took earthly obstacles, laws and necessities into account. He never looked down and, therefore, he never fell down.

We are the children of Abraham. Individually and as a people we are not subject to natural limitations. Our very existence is miraculous, as historians grudgingly admit. We are governed by no agency other than the Almighty and we have been endowed by our Creator with the capacity to see through all the of impediments, restrictions, difficulties and illusions inherent in mundane life, and to perceive the Divine purpose. We have the "seeing eye" described in Proverbs 20:17: "The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both".

Our problem is that we have trouble focusing. We are distracted by the shadows of worldly appearance. We are beguiled by world-oriented imagery and we are thus preoccupied with objectives, concerns, worries, and fears that have no substance.

The antidote to this spiritual myopia is Chassidut. Through the lens of Chassidic teaching, we are able to penetrate the gloom of galut (our present state of physical exile and spiritual displacement) and reveal the meaning and G‑dly purpose within so many of life's experiences that appear, for lack of proper vision, meaningless and purposeless.