The Pendulum Effect

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By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz Operation Inspiration

Most things in life can teach us about other things in life or inspire us to take lessons from one place and put them into practice in another.

For example, in 1948, George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, observed a number of burrs stuck to his clothes and to his dog. He studied their interlocking system and copied it to design a hook-and-loop style of binding for fastening which we all know as Velcro.

Did you ever notice that submarines are shaped something like whales? That’s because whales inspired the development of a submerged vehicle to explore the oceans. Bullet trains which travel at extremely high speeds were modeled after the kingfisher, a bird with a long, slender beak which swiftly dives into the water to catch fish.

Inspiration for inventions has come from looking at the natural world and of course, we can use lessons from the natural world to learn about how to relate to people and to HaShem. Here’s a lesson I recently got:

I’ve reached the glorious stage in life where my child has somehow persuaded the government that she should be allowed to drive a car, but they neglected to provide her one with her driver’s license. Instead, suddenly I’m sharing mine with her! What used to be my “spare” key has now become “her” key, complete with a long lanyard to make it easier for her to carry around her neck. (I’m not sure why skirts don’t come with pants’ pockets – well, aside from the fact that they aren’t pants.)

On some mornings, she drives to the bus stop and I ride along as the passenger. After the bus arrives and she departs I am free to continue on to shul for davening and to go about my day. My car has a keyless ignition, meaning that as long as the key fob is in the car it will turn on. It also means that if I leave the car and the fob is there, the door won’t lock and the car will beep. When said child drives to the bus, she will often leave “her” key in the car and the beeping alerts me that it’s time for a little scavenger hunt trying to find where she left it.

One morning I had my hands full between my Talis and Tefillen, a box, and the davening jacket I keep in my trunk. Sure enough, when I closed the door, the car started to beep. I managed to open the door, put down one item to free my hand and picked up “her” keys from the console. Not having another free hand, I slung the lanyard around my neck, picked up my Talis, and closed the door, this time to silence.

As I hurried into shul, the lanyard kept swinging back and forth with each step. Like the pendulum of a large clock, the weighty fob (with the added weight of the engraved metal Tefilas Haderech keychain she attached to it) swung back and forth and yanked me to and fro with each swing. This slowed me down and was uncomfortable too.

Finally, I gave the lanyard a shove so the fob flipped over my shoulder. In that position it just lay there hugging my neck tightly and no longer did I get the feeling I was being dragged sideways off a cliff. When that happened, a lightbulb went off in my brain. I realized that the more slack the connection to something, the more subject we are to outside pulls.

Putting this into relationship terms, the closer we are to someone, the less distracted from them we will be by other relationships. One who has a best friend will not abandon that relationship just because someone he vaguely knows speaks ill of his friend. He will not be torn between the two because one connection is much closer. He will cling to his friend and not have doubts about him.

The same thing goes for Hashem. If we maintain an arm’s-length separation from Him, we may easily be pulled or swayed by other forces and distractions. If we don’t feel close, then when challenges arise, we may be tempted to think He doesn’t care about us. However, if we are devoted to our relationship with Hashem, and feel Him with us, then these things won’t bother us in the least.

If we keep Hashem close to our hearts and minds, when things happen that normally start the pendulum effect, they will be unable to shake or move us. We will be immune to their influences and instead be able to constantly move ahead confidently and comfortably.

So don’t let yourself be pushed around by doubt or uncertainty. Focus tightly on the love you have for Hashem – and how it’s nothing compared to how much He loves you – and nobody will be able to shake you up or put you down.

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