An excerpt from Living Aligned by Rabbi Baruch Gartner
Duties of the Heart, one of the great classics of Torah philosophy and inner work, offers a parable to help us understand our misaligned relationship with the gifts of this world:
Once upon a time, a truly generous man commissioned the greatest medical experts to help him design a clinic to heal the blind. He hired technical experts and contractors to build the center to the medical experts’ exact specifications, to ensure that the blind patients would have everything they needed to regain their sight. Their benefactor filled it with every device that could help the patients navigate their new environment as independently as possible. He also employed the best doctors and nurses to teach them how to take full advantage of these gifts as their vision gradually returned.
The patients were admitted to the new facility, but despite the staff’s best efforts, the blind would not listen to their instructions about safe and proper use of the equipment. The doctors’ attempts to treat their patients also failed; the patients refused to follow the guidance of the experts entrusted with their care.
Instead of thriving in their perfect environment, it became a stumbling block for them; they literally tripped and fell over the very equipment designed to help them. Now not only blind, but filled with fear, the patients tore through the clinic, bruising and injuring themselves on the very devices meant to help them.
In the end, the hurt and furious patients complained to the generous man who’d set the entire plan into motion. They accused him: “Why did you bring us here? To torture us? To punish us? And what was the point of all of these pieces of junk—they only brought us pain!”
The blind patients never realized that he’d only intended to help them, and had provided exactly what they needed.
As if physical blindness hadn’t been enough, their mental blindness kept them from realizing that they were at the root of their own suffering.
The parable illustrates that this world already contains everything we need for our healing. This rehab center—our universe—is filled with every mechanism we need to become whole. Nothing is lacking. Wise teachers and guides have always been here, waiting for us to accept their instruction. The Torah—a mystical and practical blueprint for living—is available to us. We weren’t born blind; we became this way over time. But if we weren’t always blind—if we started out whole—that means we can regain our original vision. What was lost can be restored, but not when we’re tripping over the very tools designed to help us.
We’ve been given such great gifts—material abundance, the capacity to experience physical pleasure, and a need and potential for the joys of intimacy. Embedded within the fabric of our being is the drive to form relationships; to bring children into the world and raise them; to contribute our energy and talents to build businesses, provide services, create new works of art, and devise technologies.
We feel naturally drawn to ownership, and we work to earn money so that we can fill our lives with more, newer, better. We’re showered with an array of delicious and sustaining foods to keep us healthy and strong, but we don’t know when to stop. So the devices—perfect tools to help us heal and become whole—start tripping us up.
We want and really need loving companionship, only to discover that the first rush of love and desire doesn’t last very long. What happened? We thought our relationships, so good at the start, would just keep getting better forever. But somehow we find ourselves sprawling over the fallout from failed partnerships that have lost their vitality, and disappointment in ourselves and the people closest to us.
So how can we find the healing and wholeness we need so badly? The means are all available, but how do we take hold of them so they work for us instead of against us?
When it comes to our bodies, we usually know when we’re on the right track and what derails us.
When we’re eating what works for us, we don’t need someone to tell us we’re doing it right. We know we’re doing it right, because we feel alive, strong, and vibrant.
There are endless options for exercise, but when we’re getting our body moving in the way best for us, no one has to tell us we’re doing it right. We don’t need that outside confirmation because our body doesn’t lie. We just feel good.
But that’s not as far as we can go, because we’re more than our body, more than our mind, even more than the energy that animates us. At the core of our being lies a piece of Infinity, a spark of Godliness itself. There are ways to be in touch with that core so that every other part of us and our life flows with Divine energy and the joy that lies at the heart of the universe.
Electricity only moves through a system when its circuit is complete. In the same way, Divine energy waits for us to complete our circuit so that it can flow down to us and through us. When we’re doing it right, we’ll know it and feel it, just like we know when our body is in alignment. When all of the parts of our self are aligned, they’ll work together in harmony to serve our purpose in the most effective way possible.