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Friday, November 16, 2007

Atlas

I think a lesson many of us can learn was expressed beautifully by my cousin a few months ago. He was visiting from Israel to collect money for his yeshiva, and stopped by after Shabbos for a nice melave malka, just sitting in the kitchen, eating and talking. At one point, he noted that he'd had a nice little epiphany one time when he went to meet someone near Rockefeller Center. If you walk there, you'll notice a statute of Atlas, the Greek god, holding a huge globe on his shoulders.

My cousin thought this was an interesting statue that demonstrated a flaw in the way many people think: The statue of Atlas is supposed to signify Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders - and people often feel that this is what they must do, too. Not necessarily the world as a whole, but they think that they are to some extent responsible for helping or assisting or advising all those with whom they come in contact. The weight of the world - at least their world - is on their shoulders.

But that's not how we're supposed to act. He noted that in Judaism, we believe strongly in the concept of community, of tinokos shel beis raban (the groups of children). The weight of the world is on nobody's shoulders; we simply all work together to help. We pray together. We learn together. We work together.

I was talking to a friend yesterday and something similar came up that I think ties in to the same idea. They didn't want to express an opinion on a subject because they felt they weren't adding anything to the discussion at hand; what kind of impact could that have? I wonder if it ties into the same idea - unless we think that we're impacting the world strongly, we don't think we're impacting it at all... and therefore, we don't bother. But as a Rav I know who is making an impact said to a few of us recently, 'You don't realize just how much of an impact you're having.' That we don't see it doesn't mean that someone, somewhere isn't hearing something we've said, reading something we've written, and allowing it to change some small aspect of their lives... and that in turn changes so much. The butterfly effect of small change is immeasurable.

My cousin said that now, every time he sees Atlas standing there, hunched over with his globe, he can't help but chuckle.

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