There’s a extraordinarily insipid Hebrew song that was popular back in the 60’s, at the time when “Jewish” music was just breaking into a new form; pop, meaning popular. In the style of the times. But what it was really was just a 2-part easy-to-sing-around-the-campfire kind of song that could make people feeeeeel something.
(I know. I’m a sentimental old fool.)
The song was “Kol HaOlam Kulo Gesher Tzar M’od”. The 2 lines translate as:
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the main thing is not to fear at all.
It was based on the words of Rebbe Nachman, who was also becoming mainstream in those days. Ironically, much of the music that he himself wrote is much more sophisticated and worth knowing, past your school or camp experiences.
But it’s actually not what he wrote.
I’m attaching the original Hebrew, but you can see it here, brought to us by the Breslov organization, in Likutei Moharan II, 48.
It says, right in the middle:
…And all of it comes together and gathers and connects and comes to help you in a time of trouble, which is, G-d forbid, some pressure or trouble, G-d forbid. And know that a person needs to cross over a very very narrow bridge, and the rule and the principle is that he should not יתפחד
Okay here’s where it gets even more interesting. The word he uses is in the reflexive future tense. I saw one person translate it as “not give into fear.”
“Don’t get caught up in fear.”
Now we see that they changed the words to get a simple tune.
But this is not simple, is it?
After all, there is much to be afraid of. There was when Rebbe Nachman wrote it and there was when they changed it to fit the tune. And we have not changed now. Newtown. Boston. Syria. Lots of narrowness.
the other day, after our hike, I thought about this some more.
It’s not that there aren’t troubles; it’s that we gather our strength to go step-by-step, with G-d’s help. We don’t walk sideways; we walk ahead. We are creatures who move that way, not like crabs.
We can walk backwards, when we realize we’ve made a mistake or when we want or need to re-visit somewhere.
So we can admit to being afraid; we can admit to the reality of the world. But we can also muster up the help around us to move forward.
And be amazed.