Reb Chaim of Zanz was lame. His right leg was of almost no use to him. Yet, when he prayed he did so with such fervor that he would leap up on his right leg and dance, totally absorbed in union with God.
One day he visited the community of Reb Naftali of Ropshitz, and there he cleaved so tightly to God that he hopped and danced and spun on his bad leg over and over again. The rebbitzin happened by and saw what was happening. Complaining to her husband, she said: “Why do you let him dance like that on his bad leg? Tell him to dance on his good leg.”
Reb Naftali said: “My sweet wife, if Reb Chaim knew on which leg he was dancing, I promise you I would speak to him as you have suggested. But what am Ito do if in his passionate love of God he no longer remembers he is lame?”
We are all lame –— if not in body, then in mind. We are hobbled by crippling ideas. You are the ideas you hold, the stories you tell about yourself, your upbringing, your dreams and goals. And these ideas and stories are often inherited; they are not original to you, but simply things you have heard so often and at vulnerable times in your life that they have become a part of you. It is as if you become so ardently attached to a role that you forget you are an actor playing that role.
Who would you be without these precious ideas and stories? Imagine a person who suffers from severe amnesia. Her story is gone, along with her memory. Often the person that remains isn’t at all the same person that was there before the amnesia set in. Now imagine that you have amnesia. You can no longer remember the childhood traumas, adolescent angst, and adult struggles that excuse your moral lapses and explain your everyday dis-ease. You are no longer driven by habit, because you no longer remember that to which you are habituated. Who are you without all the remembered conditioning of the past?
When Reb Chaim the lame forgot to be Reb Chaim the lame and became simply an ecstatic lover of God, he forgot the limitations of his crippled leg. If you are ever going to remember who you really are –— God manifest here and now –— you must first forget who you think you are.
Rebbitzin: The wife of a rabbi.