Daredevil Nik Wallenda is ready to live out that childhood fantasy when he attempts this Friday, June 15, 2012 to become the first person ever to walk a tightrope directly over the brink of Niagara Falls.Niagara-Falls-Tightro_sham.jpg

How do we walk this tightrope called "life" without stumbling? First the story, then the lesson.

Chassidic Prisoner in Siberian Gulag Offers ‘Tightrope Advice’

In the days of communism's fierce grip on the Soviet Union, there lived a Chasidic Jew named Reb Mendel Futerfas. Reb Mendel repeatedly put his life at risk with his efforts to promote Jewish education behind the Iron Curtain. He was  incarcerated for 14 years.  

While in the Siberian gulag, he spent most of his free time studying and praying, but he also interacted and conversed with other prisoners. Among these prisoners was a circus performer an incredible tightrope walker.

Reb Mendel was totally baffled by the man's profession. How could a person risk his life walking on a rope several stories above ground? "To just go out there and walk on a rope?" Reb Mendel challenged incredulously.

After Stalin died, the prison authorities relaxed their rules and the prisoners were allowed to stage a makeshift circus on May Day. The tightrope walker's act would be the highlight of the show.

Everyone watched with baited breath as the tightrope walker climbed the tall pole to the suspended rope. With his hands twirling about, he virtually glided across the rope to the pole at the other end. The crowd went wild.

When he was done, he slid down off the pole and went running straight to Reb Mendel. "So?" he said. "Did you see that I was not held up by any cables?" A very impressed Reb Mendel replied, "Yes. You're right. No cables."

"OK. You're a smart man. Tell me, how did I do it? Was it my hands? Was it my feet?" the man asked. Reb Mendel paused for a moment, closed his eyes and replayed the entire act back on his mind. Finally he said, "It's all in your eyes. During the entire time, your eyes were completely focused and riveted on the opposite pole."

"Exactly!" said the performer. "When you see your destination in front of you and you don't take your eyes off of it, then your feet go where they need to go and you don't fall."

The Lessons in Life

How do we walk this tightrope called "life" without stumbling? The answer is: by establishing clear and proper goals and remaining focused on those goals like a laser beam. The Torah provides us with a road map to a meaningful and fulfilling way of life. It sets down goals and defines purpose.

When you know what your purpose and destination is, and you do not take your eyes off that pole, then you know where to put your feet.