Under the Bridge
In his wonderful book, Around The Shabbat Table, Rabbi Aryeh Ben David describes parashat Ki Tetze as “replete with misdirected desires.” He is referring to commandments relating to the “beautiful captive,” the returning lost objects, adultery, falsely accusing someone of adultery, as well as debts and divorce. He relates the following story, ascribed to Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav:
A man once dreamed that there was a great treasure under a bridge (Gesher!!) in Vienna. He traveled to Vienna and stood near the bridge, trying to decide what to do. He did not dare search for the treasure by day, because of the many people who were there.
An officer passed by and asked, “What are you doing, standing here and thinking?”
The man decided that it would be best to tell the whole story and ask for help, hoping that the officer would share the treasure with him. He told the officer the entire story. The officer replied, “A Jew is concerned only with dreams! I also had a dream, and I also saw a treasure. It was in a small house, under the cellar.”
In relating his dream, the officer accurately described the man’s city and house. He rushed home, dug under his cellar, and found the treasure. He said, “Now I know that I had the treasure all along. But in order to find it, I had to travel to Vienna.”
What does this story have to do with misdirected desires? In my life, I have not always had the luxury of setting goals and following straight lines towards meeting them. However, the greatest learning and growth I’ve experienced has typically come from unexpected bends in the road. Rabbi Nachman’s story also indicates a deep human truth about seeking. When we look from afar, we often fall prey to a “grass is greener” feeling, primarily because we know more about our own situational imperfections than we ever could about someone else’s. When we go investigate more closely, we often find that the satisfaction and fulfillment we need were not far from home to begin with. That said, it is usually worth the journey to learn these lessons.
This shabbat, think with your family about what kinds of things you thought you wanted from life as a child or a young adult, and share what kinds of things you find meaningful today.