Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being. Proverbs 20:30
For years, the following inspirational story about eagles has been circulated. According to the story, while the average lifespan of an eagle is 40 years, an eagle can make a life-changing, albeit difficult, decision when they reach age 40. Making this choice will allow the eagle to live another 30 years.
At age 40, the eagle's long flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as its food. The eagle's long sharp beak begins to bend. Its old wings are heavy with feathers that stick to its chest making it hard to fly. The eagle is left with only two options: To die or to go through a painful process of change. In order to do so, the eagle must fly to a mountaintop and sit on its nest. There it will knock its beak against a rock until it falls off and a new one emerges. Next, the eagle will pluck out its old talons allowing new ones to grow, then pluck out old feathers to make way for new feathers. After the process is completed, the eagle will take its flight of rebirth and live for several more decades.
The story is beautiful and compelling, but probably not true. However, it remains a popular story to share because of the truth and importance of the underlying lesson. If we are going to grow, prosper, and live our lives to the fullest, then we, too, must go through the difficult, and often painful, process of change in our lives.
However, another truism is that most of us won't choose to make the painful changes that we should. It has been said that some people change when they see the light, but most change only when they feel the heat! God will sometimes make us extremely uncomfortable so that we might choose the arduous process of change and become better people.
Proverbs puts it this way: "Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being." When we go through a hard situation, it can serve as a cleansing and shedding of ways that are harmful to us. Like the eagle in the story, when what keeps us back in life is removed from our lives, we can become healthier with a new lease on life.
Next time you feel that life is dealing you a few difficult blows, remember that these hard knocks beckon us to change. And when we change, our entire lives can transform for the better. Let's ask ourselves what behaviors we may shed and what habits we might need to pluck from our lives. Unlike birds and animals, we can choose to make difficult changes that will ultimately enhance our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President