Are you wearing Apple Glasses?

Friday, 14 July, 2023 - 7:02 am

This week I received a video clip of a young man sitting and pedaling on a stationary exercycle, wearing Apple Glasses that provide an “augmented reality,” as it is known these days. Suddenly he starts breathing hard, pedals faster and then tries to slow down, and then starts to shout and would have fallen off the stationary exercycle, if someone hadn’t caught him and held him, shaking.

For a moment it’s funny. The responses to the clip were laughter or at least a laughing emoji. I was also amused by the clip, but only for a moment – until I realized that the joke was on me. 

What did I see there? A man wearing a certain type of glasses that create an illusion of reality. In other words, in reality he is sitting safely on an exercycle that doesn’t move, but the glasses he is wearing are telling him that he is riding a mountain bike at top speed, and suddenly is confronted with an abyss, which he falls into. It is clear, then, why he was hyperventilating, shouting and shaking. The imaginary reality was scaring him to death.

And I, how many times do I wear such glasses? They are invisible, but I am definitely wearing glasses that create the illusion that the reality I am living in is scary, that I’m losing control – that there is an abyss, and boom! - when really, I am standing on solid ground. So is the joke on me or on him?

I envied him. At least after the fact he could see a video of himself with the Apple Glasses showing him a virtual reality. He could look at himself from the outside and see that he was needlessly alarmed and afraid, and that everything is okay. And I? Where will I find such a clip that will show me that sometimes I am wearing virtual reality glasses?

The Jewish people traveled through many places in the wilderness. Tomorrow we will read the parasha of Matot-Masei from the Torah in shul. Every stage in the journey had a story, or as they say in the Holy Land, every stage was a “parasha”. In every journey there was a “parasha” that caused some kind of upheaval. Bnei Yisrael complained time and again, at every opportunity. I am not blaming them, because I was not wearing their Apple Glasses there. But I am sure that their glasses presented to them an imaginary reality of hunger, thirst, death and more. 

So what should one do with all this? How can we examine what was, and at least learn from it for the future?

I found two tools that work for me, and perhaps they will work for others as well. Here they are: 

The first one is:

Looking back critically. No one has prepared for you a clip about your past, but you can do it yourself. And if that’s hard for you (and it is hard), then have someone else help you – a professional or a friend who thinks straight and is not afraid to tell you the truth (you can also call this a hitva’adut). Take one event that you remember from your past, tell it over, analyze it, examine its positive and negative aspects. If you manage to relive what you felt then, so much the better; it will help you focus on the issue and learn from it for the next time. Not the next time that you will go through an identical experience – because it won’t be identical – but the next time you will have to face the challenges of life; it is your behavior patterns that will be identical. Here you will be able to stop and say, “Oops, I’m repeating my mistake.”

Maybe something like Moshe Rabbeinu did in parashat Devarim. He reviewed for himself and for the people the past journeys, stopped and examined each one or at least the most significant ones, and one may say he showed Bnei Yisrael a video of themselves and their parents being alarmed in face of an imaginary reality: shaking, shouting, hyperventilating. It is clear that the goal is not just to make them feel better, but to enable them to see who, what, where and why, and thus improve in the near future and grow. 

The second tool is Aseh lecha rav – “Attach yourself to a rabbi.”

I don’t mean the rabbi whom you go to when you have questions in halacha (in the hopes that there is such a person), but, rather, the “Attach yourself to a rabbi” that the Rebbe spoke about frequently. Find a friend or some other person that you love and know that he only wants the best for you. He doesn’t have to be a community rabbi or a rabbi who gives halachic rulings, but a person who is healthy in his mind and has an open heart, and in the words of the Rebbe, the criteria for choosing a personal “rabbi” are, “First of all, one should check if there are these three signs – [he should be] shy and merciful and act with loving-kindness”. Ask for his permission and present him with the cases you are not sure about, in which you have doubts. Let him listen. He will respond without your emotional baggage because he is not wearing your augmented reality glasses. He will give you a different viewpoint, usually annoying, but clean of the self-bribery that we use with ourselves.

Wishing everyone success, 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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