European Jewish Association

The latest reflections from our esteemed colleague and advisory board member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

I am a tightrope walker
With fear of heights

You probably know those images of a tightrope walker who has strung a rope between two gigantic high-rise buildings In Manhattan and walks on the tightrope with a stick in his hands. One slip and the show is over! It is vital that the tightrope walker constantly concentrates, does not get distracted, keeps his goal in mind and is not afraid of heights. In this week’s Sidra as well as in the Pirkee Awoth – Proverbs of the Fathers that we will learn this Shabbat, I meet myself as the tightrope walker. And on the eighth day he must be circumcised on the foreskin of his body (Leviticus 12: 3). In the Halaga, Jewish law, it is stated that although the Brit Mila, the circumcision, can be performed during the whole eighth day, it is nevertheless better to fulfill this mitzvah early in the morning. Keeping a commandment or any good deed should not be delayed! We learn this lesson from patriarch Awraham. When he was ordered by G’d to sacrifice his son Yitzchak, he did not postpone thatorder, but he got up early to do what was required of him.

Knowing this, the question arises: Why didn’t Awraham circumcise himself in the morning, but delayed his Brit Mila until later that day? One of the answers I found was that Awraham didn’t just think about himself. He wanted others to hear what he was doing. He wanted the entire society to stop idolatry. He hoped that everyone would realize that there is only one G’d and that He demands of the men to be circumcised. He understood that if he fulfilled this mitzvah early in the morning, hardly anyone would notice. And so, for the sake of publicity, he decided to do it later that day. So that others would be inspired.

In the Proverbs of the Fathers (chapter 2:1) we read: What is the right way for man to choose? Any way that honors him who follows him and at the same time honors him by the people.

From this we see that Awraham’s position is a general rule. In everything we do we have to look at the context. What is the influence of my behavior on my environment? Judaism is not black or white. On the one hand you always have to walk the right way, but on the other hand, depending on the situation, you sometimes have to choose an alternative route to achieve the same goal.

So life is a continuous tightrope walk. If you only look up, you lose sight of the road you have to walk. If you only look down, you will be overwhelmed by the fear of the abyss. Especially in this difficult period in which we all find ourselves, it is vital
not to think black and white. It will be fine and I will ignore all the adapted rules that the Government and the physicians require from us, is a one- sided and therefore completely wrong position. It is like that tightrope walker who has no eye for reality and only tries to reach the other side with his head up. But also just looking into the depths, seeing everything
black, letting your thoughts be determined solely by screaming terrifying media reports, is a wrong position.

I feel like a tightrope walker. I make sure that I am not getting sick by alarming headlines on FB, newspapers, radio and TV. At the same time I have to consciously observe new rules and good advice. I must not shut myself off from reality. I also have to realize that I am constantly observed and that my unstable behavior can also instill fear or indifference in others.

Dear people. Do not take this column personally. I just wanted to show you how I am constantly balancing. I am a tightrope walker who refuses to look down due to fear of heights. But I also know that only my view upwards is not the Jewish and right way. I try to keep my balance. Do you do that too!

Binyomin Jacobs, Chief Rabbi