I remember a cute and memorable mashal (parable) from my Rebbe in high school at W.I.T.S. in Milwaukee.
It says in Mishle, “Eits Chaim Hee Lamachazikim bah” (3, 18) “She is a tree of life for those who grasp on to her”.
The subject of this verse is the Torah. We sing this as we return the Torah to the Holy Ark after reading from it.
Two questions are blaring. First, how is the Torah comparable to a tree? Secondly, why is this true only for those who grasp onto the Torah? If the Torah is comparable to a tree, wouldn’t this be so whoever may be holding onto it?
A mashal: Imagine being swept along a choppy and dangerous river. The current is so fierce that you cannot stay afloat. Every time you manage to come up for a breath of air, you are pulled down under the furious waves. So you fling and flail your arms and legs, desperately trying to swim across to the dry land.
But to no avail. Every incredible effort that you make is met with an equally incredible counterforce. As your strength wanes, the high winds and choppy waters make your efforts meaningless. You just cannot deal with the pain that it takes to face the unrelentless pressure that’s forcing you down.
Suddenly, just when you’ve all but given up, you see just ahead a long and sturdy tree trunk that has fallen right across the river. You know that if you can muster enough strength to reach up and grab hold of that solid tree trunk you will survive. But do you have it in you? Do you have the courage that it takes? Can you possibly tap into a flicker of hope that resides in the deepest and darkest part of your inner self? Can you ignore all distractions and intrusions, and only focus on your salvation – the rock solid tree trunk?
The tree is the Torah. The rocky and stormy waters are all of life’s distractions – everything that pulls us away from being all that we can and should be. Living a Torah true life means holding on tightly to the most solid base that exists.
So let’s rejoice! Always remember the gift that we have been given! It gives us the power and energy necessary to reach our ultimate potential! Look ahead and never look back!