Enlightenment from the Campfire with the Maharal

“Have you ever noticed that when a person starts worrying that something will happen, it sometimes does happen?” my husband said to me, as he was learning one of Rav Elimelech Biderman’s shiurim from Kol Halashon. “It could be he is afraid of falling down the stairs, that someone might be in an accident, or that he is going to lose money. It
is like experiencing a premonition.”
“No,” I reflexively denied the whole idea. “How many times does a person have those feelings and then nothing happens? People just remember the times when there was a prior feeling and an event happened. How many times do we think something bad is about to occur and nothing happens? It’s random,” I answered logically, or so I thought. “But, I sure hope you don’t have any bad feelings now.”
“See, you admit it happens; just not necessarily all the time. Sometimes you see someone who becomes nervous about a specific happening and they become paranoid about it. Let’s assume a person worries that everyone hates him. And sure enough, it becomes a reality because he is on edge and looks at everyone with suspicion, and he makes everyone else
nervous and uncomfortable and turns them off . Whereas if he hadn’t thought about it first and allowed the thought to interfere with his relationships, nothing would have happened.”

I was considering the idea when my husband got very excited. “Look what it says here Chiddushei Aggadot of the Maharsha, Bava Metzia 33): ‘Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi said:  Whoever establishes within himself, so it eventually will be.’ Rav Biderman explains that when a person is fearful of losing his property, he has disregarded Hashem’s will and it is ‘like nothing’ in his eyes. Therefore, the very thing he fears losing will be lost. His new status of poverty is caused by himself. “And Rav Biderman continues: ‘Just as it is said in Iyov (24:3): When a person is afraid of something, he will diminish himself under that fear. He will make himself subservient and this will cause that which he is afraid of
happening to actually happen.’

“Listen to this! Amazing!” My husband was really enthralled with Rav Biderman’s words. “‘The Maharal says: When a man takes a plank of
wood and he places it over the river in order to cross it from one side to the other, it is almost certain this man will fall. However, if he takes the exact same piece of wood and places it on the ground he will be able to cross it without any problems. The fear of falling, while he is crossing the river, causes worry, and will bring about the reality!’

“‘Yet, the Maharal continues: If man were to strengthen his belief, his bitachon in Hashem since he knows that Hashem does only good for him, the merit of his virtuous thoughts can save him from evil. He will be able to pass over the river of life in peace and
tranquility.’”
My husband put down the booklet and was thoughtful. Suddenly he asked me, “Did I ever tell you that I loved camping as a kid?”
“Nu, I can tell you have a great story. What happened?”
“I used to be an avid hiker and camper. I was a Boy Scout for years and earned many badges — my best skills were rope tying and starting fires.

Grassy log
“Once when I was out camping with the troop and it began to get dark, we decided to stop hiking and set up the campsite. The tent was up and dusk fell quickly. We needed to start a fire for food, warmth, and light. We all went out to search for firewood. Each one of us
headed in a different direction, hoping to collect enough kindling wood and logs in order to have a long evening around the bonfire.

“In the moonlit path, I noticed a log that had fallen over a hole in the middle of the trail I was taking, making a natural bridge. Having learned the rules for safety, I checked first  that the log was sturdy and firm. It didn’t seem to be very long, so without much thought, I walked across the log to the other side of the pit. I was rewarded. I  found a pile of twigs and sticks, took out my favorite rope and tied them up in a bundle. I was able to haul back
much more than I thought I could carry. I crossed back over the pit and returned to the group.
“Now, because I was known,” my husband humbly said, “for starting a fire with only one match, they was in charge of the fire. After the sticks were set up in a tepee shape, I got the fire started, set down the grill and helped the cook.

We really enjoyed the meal, told great stories around the campfire and later on we all went to sleep.
“Since I was the designated fire chief, I got up early to gather firewood again so we could have our morning coffee and hot cereal before setting out on the planned hike.

“When I returned to the trail where I had been rewarded with such a good supply of firewood the night before, I was in for a shock. The old log on which I had crossed over the “pit” was actually a thin bridge over a deep crevice in the ground that was seemingly bottomless.
“Suddenly I felt faint and could not even approach the log, much less walk across it. I remembered how careless my footing had been the night before in the dark. The  enjoyment of the camping experience was swallowed up in that moment by the fearful,
enlightened knowledge of what might have happened. I was overwhelmingly
grateful to Hashem for having protected me the night before.” 

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