Elul 23: Invaluable Lesson ~ Rabbi Naomi Levy


“The smoothest path is full of stones.” Yiddish Proverb

One day my daughter, Noa, who has physical disabilities, asked me if she could have a rock climbing party for her twelfth birthday. I froze. I’d always been so careful to protect Noa from disappointment. I’d gone to great lengths to create parties where she wouldn’t get left out or feel that her friends surpassed her. I said, “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” “But why?” she pressed me. “It’s too expensive,” I said. But day after day Noa kept pushing for the rock climbing party. Eventually I gave in. But I was still worried.

On the day of the party Noa put on a climber’s harness, and to my amazement, she pushed with her legs and pulled with her arms and boldly made her way up the wall. It wasn’t easy, but she climbed and climbed. She was fearless, beaming with joy. I was so wrong about her.

During the party there was a boy about Noa’s age who was too frightened to climb. His father was encouraging him, but he stood frozen in his place. His muscles were strong, but his fear was stronger still.

That day my daughter taught me an invaluable lesson: our greatest disability is fear, our greatest strength is courage. In climbing, it is the smoothest surface that is the most treacherous. A rough rocky landscape is fertile ground for ascension. If you want to rise up don’t fear the bumps. Turn every stone into a step.

As I looked around the gym that day I couldn’t help but wonder if the key to a meaningful life was embedded in that rock wall. The beckoning stones gave me my answer. The challenge in life is a simple as this: Do I stare at the wall or do I climb?

Rabbi Naomi Levy is an author, speaker and spiritual leader of Nashuva, a groundbreaking Jewish outreach community in Los Angeles. www.nashuva.com