middot adaptability mesorah bendable as a reed

bendable as a reed

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-bentreedSoon after this R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon entered [the Beit Hamidrash] and expounded thus, "A man should always be gentle as the reed and let him never be unyielding as the cedar. And for this reason the reed merited that of it should be made a pen for the writing of the Law, Phylacteries and Mezzuzot." -- Taanit 20b

This beautiful imagery of a reed, bending and yielding, yet being the prime choice to write words of Torah within a scroll, tefillin, and mezzuzot is one we should take to heart.  While we strive to uphold Torah, stick to our convictions, and maintain our beliefs, sometimes we tend to have more of the properties of a rock: unyielding and only doing so through breaking apart.  These attributes not only hinder our effectiveness, but can have devastating effects on others.

softness in life

When we are confronted with challenges in life, whether they be to our beliefs, way of living, comfort, or expectations, we have various ways in which we can adapt so as to handle these challenges.  Suppose you are in a situation where you lose your balance and go into a fall.  The best way to handle a fall is not to stiffen up and hit the ground in a rigid fashion.  The better way is to anticipate how to roll into a fall to soften the blow.  If one stiffens, the risk of bone breakage or other kinds of injury is greater.  So too, when we are confronted with a situation that catches us off guard, we would do better to soften our approach to the situation and be flexible in order to minimize "injury", whatever form that may take.  Our Sages intimate that if we become rigid and hardened, we lose our ability to comprehend, respond in a kind way, and to possibly absorb something that might be beneficial. In essence, we become like the cedar which is not left standing after a storm. 

The middah of adaptability requires that we flex and handle the flow of life with grace.  The strength of a bridge lies in its flexibility; we too can model this strength if we have a certain give and take and be the means through which change and growth flows. Our ability to affect others and be affected will be greater the more we can adapt ourselves.  Be gentle and soft and you too may be used for greater purposes.

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