The Lion in the Streets
Yael Eckstein | July 15, 2022
A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road,
a fierce lion roaming the streets!” — Proverbs 26:13
We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.
The great Hasidic rabbi, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, had a famous saying. “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing is to never be afraid.” This saying was turned into a song with a beautiful, slow, and inspiring melody that I learned as a child.
What I love about this is that Rabbi Nachman wasn’t saying that there is nothing dangerous in life, that there is no reason to be cautious or careful. He didn’t say that we shouldn’t fear because there is no danger.
The words “The whole world is a very narrow bridge” tells us that life is full of risks. Without taking on risky situations, we would never accomplish big things. Fear paralyzes us by telling us that the task before us is too dangerous.
But oftentimes, the fears that stop us from acting are an excuse. We imagine the worst-case scenario and use that to avoid challenges that we ought to be facing. Sometimes, we do this because we don’t want to put in the effort. It’s easier to hide behind an imagined danger to justify not doing what we need to do.
The Lion in the Streets
We see this lesson in Proverbs. We read, “A sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!’” What’s interesting to note is what metaphor is used in the verse to describe our fears. It isn’t a fire or a thief, or something else we might realistically encounter.
Rather the metaphor used is a lion in the streets. How often do lions or other animals that live in the wild wander through the streets of a city inhabited by people? But that’s the whole point of the verse. Lions don’t walk around in cities. The fear isn’t real.
We all have tasks in life that are unpleasant or challenging. The instinct to rationalize and come up with excuses for why we aren’t doing what we need to do is human nature. We need to be honest with ourselves. We can’t let imagined fears — the lion in the streets — impede our way and prevent us from doing the right thing.
Yes, the world is a narrow bridge. There are dangers. Yes, we need to proceed with prudence and caution. But we must never be afraid.
Is there a difficult task that you’ve been avoiding? Don’t be afraid. Trust in God and move forward.