April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Tunnel View: The Journey From Tunnel Vision

This past Chanukah, my daughter and I had the great opportunity to visit Yosemite National Park. We were spending the second half of Chanukah with friends from Northern California and they had offered to take us to Yosemite and figure out all the logistics; from the accommodations to the food to planning out which trails to hike. I consider walking more than ten blocks on the Highline in Manhattan to be a hike, so this was certainly outside my comfort zone but I was totally up for the experience.

After Shabbos, we headed out for the adventure. The drive out was incredibly foggy and dark so I was very grateful not to be driving. It was quite a nerve-wracking experience, but we eventually made it to our cabin for the night and settled in. My friend and her family are incredibly adventurous and have visited many national parks so they are used to staying in “off-the-grid” places. Me? Not so much. While we figured out the sleeping arrangements and started a warm fire in the gas oven (before we saw the sign not to light the fire), I stepped outside to the porch and looked up. Never in my life have I seen that many stars in the sky. As anyone’s natural instinct would be, I ran back in to grab my phone so I could take a picture. I found a perfect shot where there were no trees blocking my line of sight, but the picture was all blurry. I tried turning off the porch lights and found another spot to take a picture, but each time I tried I was unsuccessful. How was I supposed to see something so awesome and not be able to document and share (ok, maybe prove that I saw it) to family and friends? Then where’s the joy in having that experience? I tried to savor the moment and just stay out and stare at the sky as long as possible until I realized I had to be up and out in a few short hours.

Our friends specifically planned the drive in to Yosemite so we would be able to see certain sights along the way. Even opening the window and listening to the rushing water was amazing. Our first official stop in the park was at Tunnel View. We got there a short while after sunrise and the view was outrageous— and here I have the pictures to prove it. But almost every time I show someone the picture, I get asked which filter I used on my fancy iPhone XR. These pictures were au natural— no filter needed to capture Hashem’s natural beauty. Throughout the day, we continued to see waterfalls and giant Sequoia trees that blew my mind. Our Californian friends were excited to see two inches of snow— that did not do it for us New Jerseyans. Most of the time when I go to see a beautiful view, it’s from New Jersey or Brooklyn and the view is of the Manhattan skyline. By no means am I discounting the beautiful architecture, but this was really an experience that is embedded in my soul.

Often I think about the name of the first vista we saw that day— Tunnel View. It didn’t seem to have any resemblance to a tunnel so I couldn’t understand the name? I looked it up and learned that it’s called Tunnel View because it’s the first real vista after you come out of the Wawona Tunnel. Ok— I kind of get it a little more. What bothers me is that I kept associating Tunnel View with tunnel vision. At Tunnel View you can see for miles and miles into the distance and it looks like the land never ends. Tunnel vision is when you can barely see a few feet in front of you. At Tunnel View, you feel like there is an adventure ahead and there’s a sense of excitement. We were with very close friends who we don’t get to see very often. They knew the way and were there to guide us and make sure we were going to have the best chavaya (experience) we could have and it would be memorable. Tunnel vision is the opposite of all of those feelings.

There are lots of moments that will inevitably come up in our lives that will leave us with a feeling of tunnel vision. It’s as if you are trapped and you can’t think about how you will ever break free. When having those moments, it’s as if no one else’s opinion will even matter and any offer of help doesn’t seem like it will actually help. Others around you will likely be telling you daven to Hashem or to understand that Hashem has a bigger plan in mind. Does it help? When you’re in so deep, not likely. The ability to even understand that Hashem is in control is a level of emunah (belief) that most people can’t even feel when this entrapped. It’s chapters in someone’s life that they are likely grateful for the small things in order to not feel in a state of constant despair. The tiny things like a seat on the train, good weather, a random phone call from a friend or even a bite of a delicious sandwich can transform a day. It’s like they’re little bonuses you need to remind yourself that in fact, Hashem does have your back.

I recently heard a vort about how we approach tefillah. The line we say before Shemoneh Esreh esrei is asking Hashem to open our lips in order for us to praise Him. The rav pointed out so often at times in between Shacharit to Mincha, Mincha to Maariv and then back again to Shacharit, so much happens during that time that we could have a tendency to forget that Hashem is our master and in control. As we get towards the end of Shemoneh Esreh, we generally approach the bracha of modim as gratitude and saying thank you. While in fact the shoresh of the word modim really means to admit and here we are clearly stating that we are so grateful for that. But what happens when you are in that state of tunnel vision and you have davened countless times, but don’t feel like you have gotten the response you so rightfully deserve? Maybe opening a siddur is difficult three times a day, let alone once per day. For anyone that feels that way, overcoming that feeling is nearly impossible as you can’t see a glimpse of years down the line.

I walked around Yosemite with this constant thought that there is really no reason Hashem needs to make this world so beautiful. The same way Hashem could have the power for every person to have endless material wealth, He also could have made this world very blah to look at. While I know there are stars in the sky even if I can’t see them in New Jersey, getting the chance to see them so vividly simply reminded me of the awesomeness of Hashem. And while the picture isn’t documented digitally, the image will outlast any digital image. As our days are getting slightly longer, try to spend a few moments outside during sunset and just take a moment to take it in.

In my column last month, I discussed the idea of not needing to go out to every event. As we approach Adar (and gasp- Pesach) where we are figuring out plans for each of these holidays, it occurred to me that lots of people don’t have invitations lined up for these holidays, let alone bar mitzvahs every other weekend. I encourage everyone to think about someone who might be not feeling Hashem’s presence in their lives as easily as you, and invite them now for a Purim party or Yom Tov meal. This season could cause more stress than simcha for many, so it’s a great opportunity to alleviate that feeling for someone you know. Wishing you a beautiful Adar Aleph. Here’s to using the extra time wisely!

By Rachel Zamist

 

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