Perspective: Shabbat Message from Cantorial Soloist Michelle Auslander Cohen

A fiddler on the roof… sounds crazy, no?

Each of us…trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune…without breaking our necks!

Recently departed Sheldon Harnick, z”l, lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof, captured the Jewish spirit in this wonderful metaphor; life is like standing on a roof playing a fiddle; the goal is to play a beautiful melody while trying to keep your balance with all that life throws your way.

This Shabbat, we complete the book of Numbers – Bamidbar – meaning, “in the wilderness.” Forty years of wandering have come to an end, and this Parasha recaps the long journey the Israelites have taken to reach this point. It goes on to delineate the territory of the land of Israel and spell out its borders. It is both a literal and figurative transition time in which they are searching for perspective.

Through my own life’s journey, I have come to believe there are two types of perspective:

1 – Being 100% mindful and present in any given moment

2 – Having an aerial view of the situation; being aware of the bigger picture.

After all, one cannot simultaneously focus on one single piece of a puzzle AND see the whole puzzle at the same time, yet both are vital tools to have as we move through life.

The awareness that both of these states of mind exist help us to understand that we have the ability to be intentional about choosing the kind of perspective we need when entering a conversation, making decisions and managing relationships.

In this week’s Parasha as Moses nears the end of his life, the time has come to reflect on the past in order to understand how to best plan for the future. With this, the Torah is teaching us the profound skill of taking an aerial photo of our life in order to better understand where we are on our journey and how to move forward.

Life is a balancing act… like trying to play a fiddle while standing on a roof…seemingly on one foot!  We cannot always know what we need at every single moment of every single day. However, we are blessed with a tradition filled with wisdom that teaches us the tools for how to live a life of meaning and purpose. Understanding how the Israelites moved through their journey helps us learn how to gain perspective through the ups and downs of our own life’s journey.

It is sacred and humbling work to learn the importance of processing the past and planning for the future – as this is what teaches us how to enjoy the present.

When we can learn to freely flow through the different stages of our lives; to be intentional and allow ourselves time to look at our lives through many lenses, then we can better realize a life of blessing, purpose, fulfillment and peace.

Shabbat Shalom,

Michelle Auslander Cohen
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