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Poster Commentary
"The whole world is a very narrow bridge. The key is not to be afraid."Rabbi Nachman of Breslav
Poster design:Michael Morgenstern


by Daniel Gordis
We are all afraid.
As we fall asleep. In our dreams. We fear losing those we love. We wonder who will care for us when we are old and infirm. Will we look back on our lives with regret?
Even when life feels glorious, knowing that it could all change haunts us. We live as if on a suspension bridge. The shaking that follows each footstep reminds us that getting to the other side is not a certainty.
That is why Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, the Hasidic master, said, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge. The key is not to be afraid.”
To overcome their innermost fears, Rabbi Nachman urged his followers to seek intimate closeness to God. “Speak to God as if He is next to you,” he told them. When we feel God’s closeness, we sense that our lives are part of a wondrous tapestry. We know we matter. If we can find elements in Jewish life—prayer, music, silence, ritual, study—that draw us closer to feeling the Divine, then even the rickety bridge cannot frighten us. We can cross the chasm with confidence; we can cast fear aside.
Of course, Rabbi Nachman knew we cannot banish fear entirely. We will never fully escape the feeling that life is a narrow, shaking bridge. Yet even knowing that is an accomplishment. Acknowledging the bridge and embracing fear will lead us to resoluteness, to making our lives matter. That, Rabbi Nachman believed, is precisely what being Jewish is about.
Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in
Jerusalem. He won the National Jewish Book Award for Saving Israel, and The Promise of Israel was
named by Jewish Ideas Daily as one of the “best Jewish books of 2012.” Commentary Magazine has called
Gordis’s most recent book, Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, “the gold standard in Begin studies.”

Conversation Guide

1. With what imagery would you finish the sentence, “The whole world is ________”?
2. What narrow bridges do you walk, and what is your key to navigating the world?
3. Have you ever turned to Judaism for solace when you felt that life is like a bridge that does not stop shaking? What was the situation, and how did you overcome your fears?
1. The world is represented as a giant void. What emotions do the color and space of this void evoke in you? How does this make you feel about the world as a
place that you inhabit?
2. What might be the significance of the cloud and the snake to the person on the bridge? What would you have placed at the bottom of the abyss?
3. The meaning of the person walking on the narrow bridge connects easily to the quote, but what might the person’s stance suggest?




Frames of Mind@2015, Michael Morgenstern, Quote: Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA