Children's books can teach many fabulous lessons. While watching some kids last night, I read them a bedtime story.
It was a story about Stellaluna, a bat who got separated from her mother as a little baby. All alone in the big forest, Stellaluna discovered a nice family of birds living in a cozy nest on a tall tree.
At first, Stellaluna found the birds weird, and they couldn't get over her odd habits. Yet, slowly, as time went by, Stellaluna learned to behave a good little bird. She learned to stay up all day, eat bugs, and hang from her hands instead of her feet.
For a long time, Stellaluna lived as one of the birds, forgetting that she was different from them. Then, one day, the birds were all grown up and it was time for them to learn how to fly. The mother bird took them out of the nest and taught them the basics of flight.
The birds took off, Stellaluna close behind, and they went off and explored. It was then that Stellaluna found her real family, the Bats. The first time she glimpsed a bat hanging by his feet, she thought he was making a mistake. But then, as she grew used to the bat ways, she started to see something strange. Living as a bat was so much easier, so much more natural for her than life as a bird.
As a bird, Stellaluna had to choke down her bugs and struggle not to make faces. As a bat, Stellaluna had a grand time eating lots of fruit, plus, she found that he actually enjoyed it! As a bat, Stellaluna noticed how much easier it was for her to stay up all night and sleep all day. All of these traits that she had suppressed as a bird, were coming out and blossoming in her new existence as a bat.
In conclusion, Stellaluna and her old bird friends came to the mutual agreement that while they look and feel so similar, in reality, they are totally different. Reading this book, I got the chills from the obvious lesson I learned from it.
We are yidden.
Our lives may seem similar to those of the non-Jews. On the surface, we both have "wings", we both eat, we both live in the wondrous forest called "earth" yet, when we attempt to live as birds, rather than bats, we find ourselves struggling. We might be able to mold ourselves to fit in with the "rest of the world" but what is the point? We are created differently, for a different purpose.
Now, during the aseres yemei teshuvah, as we contemplate our lives, our mortality, and our very existence, as we think about our life styles, about the areas that need change, we must ask ourselves, are we living as birds, or as bats? Are we twisting ourselves around, trying to make ourselves fit the mold of the umos ha'olam, or are we satisfied with our lives as bats, and living the way we are meant to live?
Sometimes, we don't even give ourselves a chance. We act as we always have. We do what we see the world doing. Yet, if we'd sit amongst the bats, and learn their ways, OUR ways, we would discover that our lives would become richer, more satisfying.
Don't be a bird, be a bat!