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Breaking Out of Your Inner Jail

by Mrs. Shifra Hendrie


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"In the sixth century of the sixth millennium, the gates of supernal [heavenly] wisdom will be opened, as will the wellsprings of earthly wisdom, preparing the world to be elevated in the seventh millennium."1 -- The Zohar.

The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self. --Albert Einstein

Defining You

Who are you? Are you a mother, father, child, friend, spiritual seeker, doctor, lawyer, teacher, business person? A husband or wife?

And what kind of person are you? A good person, a not-so-good person? Smart or stupid, graceful or clumsy? Are you talented, bold, wimpy, fearless, fearful, articulate, shy? Do you enjoy taking risks, or are you afraid to try new things? Do you like to let it all hang out, or are you shut up like a clam? Whatever your answers, you will almost certainly have a fair number of pretty definite beliefs and opinions about yourself. And those beliefs and opinions, whether expressed or not, will limit and define you as certainly as if they were made out of concrete and steel.

Several years ago a magnificent young tiger was imported from India and shipped to a local zoo in the States. A beautiful and expansive habitat was built for him, complete with waterfall, trees, rocks, valleys and caves. While the building was going on, the tiger was housed in a small temporary cage, approximately 30 by 30 feet. It spent its days continuously pacing the cage from one end to the other. This cage was originally intended to house the tiger on a very temporary basis – for only a couple of weeks- but the building took longer than expected and the tiger actually remained in the cage for several months. When the habitat was finally complete, the cage was lowered into it, opened, and removed. The tiger almost immediately resumed pacing – 30 feet forward and 30 feet back. It no longer needed the small cage to limit and confine it; this cage, which once surrounded the tiger, had been transplanted into the tiger’s mind.

The ties that bind us are almost always thicker, stronger and more real as they exist inside our heads than they are in the actual physical world
A similar mechansim is familiar to the people who train elephants. When the elephant is young and small, it is strongly tethered to something large and heavy; a strong stake or a tree. The elephant pulls and tugs, but cannot free itself, and eventually gives up, confining its movements to the length of the rope. As soon as this happens, the tree can be replaced by a small stake that the now much larger elephant could pull up in an instant. Only it doesn’t. Stake, rope, and confinement have become indelibly associated in the elephant mind.

Does this ring any bells for you?

Do you ever say to yourself: “I can’t, I’m just not that type”? If you answer ‘no’, look harder, because in one arena or another we all do. Some people can’t parachute out of planes. Some of us just can’t keep our houses organized. Some of us can’t stop overeating or overdrinking. Some can’t talk about our feelings. Some can’t get ourselves to work, and others can’t stop working. And we almost always think we know, in any given area, whether we have what it takes, or not.

It's All In Your Head 

Just like our zoological friends, the ties that bind us are almost always thicker, stronger and more real as they exist inside our heads than they are in the actual physical world. The way we react to our beliefs about ourselves, life, other people, and what we can and can’t do is no different than the tiger’s reaction to his months in the cage or the elephant’s to his rope.


  • 1. On the Jewish calendar we are currently (2008) in the eighth century of the sixth millennium: 5768. The sixth century corresponds to the 1700's - the birth of the great scientific enlightenment, and (L'havdil) the Chassidic (Jewish mysticism) movement.


Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).



Posted by: Helen Karmin, Grand Rapids, MI on Oct 30, 2006

Over the past few days I was feeling especially down as a result of some personal issues. This article has given me new hope and infused me with a new life.

Thank you so much for the inspiring and uplifiting article.

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.