Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that fear plays in our lives. I try not to live in fear, but there’s no shortage of it at any given moment. At present, I’m fearful of (and frustrated by) the antisemitic rhetoric and violence of recent weeks. I do not believe that anti-Zionist sentiments are automatically antisemitic, but the conflict in Israel and Palestine has once again opened the door to these latent sentiments within many. Additionally, I’m fearful about returning to large, in-person events. While I, myself, am vaccinated, my 2.5-year-old cannot yet be, and even the slightest risk of him contracting the virus frightens me to my core.
One of the early Chasidic Masters, Rebbe Nachman of Bretslov, offers us some fortifying advice on the matter. He said, “kol haolam kulo, gesher tzar m’od, v’haikar lo l’fached klal” which has widely been translated as: “the whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important part is not to be afraid.” That is courageous advice, indeed, but it’s not always possible, nor is it always right. The verse can be interpreted a different way, though, one that is more true, more possible: “the whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important part is not to be entirely afraid.”
When our children are afraid of something, like riding the big slide, it might be our instinct to say, “Don’t be scared!” But the truth is, they are. What if, instead, we climbed up there with them, told them it’s ok to be scared, that you are afraid of things too, and that when they’re ready, you’ll help them do the scary thing. Perhaps it’s good advice for parenting our inner child, too.