I recently came upon a story that Carol Paster handed me some twenty years ago as she said, “You’ll find a use for this some day.”
The story told of a boy who was fascinated watching a butterfly struggle to emerge from the cocoon that had protected it since beginning its transformation from a caterpillar. After a period of struggle it broke a small hole in the cocoon, but then seemed stuck. After a brief respite the insect began to struggle again, but seemed to make little progress.
The boy became worried. “What if the butterfly can’t escape its cocoon?” he thought. “What if the very thing that had protected it now became the reason for its demise?”
He knew he had to do something.
Gently, with the greatest of care, he peeled back a bit of the cocoon and made enough room for the butterfly to escape.
The butterfly crawled out, but its wings were crumpled and a third the size they should have been. And much to the boy’s dismay, that was how they remained. The butterfly could crawl, but it was never able to fly.
What the boy didn’t realize was that the struggle to emerge from the tight cocoon was the final stage in the butterfly’s development. Despite being free of its confines, without that struggle it was now as if the butterfly was still stuck in that cocoon.
Self reflection can be hard.
Apologizing to those we hurt can be painful.
Emotional and spiritual growth is often a struggle.
But without them, we, like that butterfly, run the risk of remaining stuck where we were rather than being free to move forward.
The month of Elul is half over.
S’lichot is next Saturday evening.
Rosh Hashanah begins two weeks from tonight.
And there is no better time to do the work that allows us to break free from the confines of the past.
Rabbi Daniel Cohen