Imagine the front line of war. Soldiers battling and pushing forward and back. At this front line is a no man’s land where the fighting takes place. This line is constantly moving up and back. Now imagine a tug of war. In the middle is that handkerchief as one side pulls and then the other, this handkerchief moves forward and backward.
The first analogy / parable was used by Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler to illustrate a point and was what he called the “Behira point.” It is the constantly moving front line where we are being challenged. When the front line moves forward, what was once a difficult dilemma or decision no longer is a struggle. The example given is of a person who was raised by thieves and pick-pockets. While the temptation for you to steal something from someone is minimal and causes you very little stress, for someone raised in that culture who is attempting to grow morally, that temptation is real and difficult. That is their front line, their “behira point.” For you, your line of maximal difficulty in growing ethically and morally is somewhere else.
First and foremost, this analogy gives us a deeper compassionate understanding for people. Often, we see people judging others for things which hold no temptation for the person judgeing, since for them it is so easy to avoid. But seen through this lens, we can realize that it is simply that they are at their own front line.
On the other hand, there are people who have advanced their front line so far ahead of us, that the challenges that they have are inconceivable to where we are now. Each of us is at his point of maximal challenge, some ahead on some issues, some behind. The battleground of life presents us with challenges in all spheres, so that where we are can never be defined by another by the battleground in one aspect of life if seen through this lens.
It is often helpful, though, to assess where we our frontline is, our “behira point” is on the levels of our life, those being physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social. Next time you are tempted to judge someone because they don’t get up at 5 am like you to exercise or are still having trouble giving up that piece of cake that is keeping them from losing weight, or are suffering from addictions of various kinds, realize that they are at their point of maximal challenge as are you. You only see one behira point, only one in a complex individual with many such points.
The best advice ever given when you find yourself about to judge someone for being lazy or succumbing to something you find easy to avoid is to remember this parable and to heed the advice of this great (slightly paraphrased) quote by Ian Maclaren, “Be Kind For Everyone is Fighting a Great Battle.”