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I Bumped Into A Huge Bear!

Thursday, 2 July, 2020 - 7:42 pm

This week I bumped into a bear. Yes, an actual lumbering, extremely large and ferocious-looking American black bear. 

We’ve been staying in a house just outside the city, and as I stepped out the other day, I immediately jumped back, startled to see a huge bear casually roaming around sniffing for food. I wasn’t more than 3-4 feet away! I quickly retreated into the house, locked the door, took out my camera, and started filming. 

Now, I grew up in South Africa, home to plenty of wild animals (baboons, lions, tigers, elephants), but we only ever saw those in the Kruger National Park, never just roaming the streets. Plus there are no bears in South Africa, so they are unfamiliar even to me. But apparently this is a common occurrence in rural America, as we’ve discovered in recent weeks. 

The bears aren’t only massive, they have huge claws, sharp teeth, run at 30 miles per hour, climb trees, and even swim well! So if a bear attacks you, there’s pretty much no escape other than praying to G-d to save you. 

But here’s the thing. The first time I saw this bear, I was terrified. But after speaking to the locals and doing my own research, it turns out these bears are actually quite timid and are probably more afraid of us than we are of them. Black bears are not grizzly bears or brown bears. They are quite gentle. 

Black bears are ruled by fear and food—in that order. Researchers are frequently surprised by how cautious these powerful animals are in response to the tiny rustling sounds of squirrels, mice, or birds. They are known to have retreated from butterflies, mallards, even a moth! Hunters can chase the biggest black bears with their smallest hounds, and many small, yapping dogs have chased black bears out of yards. Bear Center researchers have never encountered a black bear they couldn’t chase away. 

This weekend we celebrate the 12th of Tammuz, the day the Previous Rebbe was freed from imprisonment at the hand of the Soviets. Stalin forbade any kind of Torah study. Shuls, mikvahs, and yeshivas were not allowed to operate. Observance of the mitzvos was strictly prohibited. But the Previous Rebbe stood up to the raging beast of communism, confident and unafraid. Stalin killed millions of people, but the Rebbe knew the truth. He knew that G-d runs the world and he stood steadfast and strong even when arrested and tortured. Not once did he waver. Today, 92 years later, as we celebrate the Rebbe’s release from prison, we see the truth. The Soviet Union is long gone, Stalin is now remembered as one of history’s worst mass murderers, but Torah, Judaism, Chabad, the Rebbe’s legacy and chassidim—we are all still here and still going strong. 

What’s the message for us?

At times, it seems like our challenges are insurmountable. There is so much fear and anxiety in the world right now. But it’s like the ferocious-looking bear that is gentle at heart: We really have little to fear, as long as we realize that G-d runs the world. None of it can affect our souls. Our souls are part of G-d; they are eternal and untouchable. So instead of allowing fear and anxiety to consume us, let’s focus on strengthening our connection to G-d, so that when the beast of anxiety rears its ferocious head, we can talk it down and remind ourselves that we are safe, things will work out, and He has a plan that will ultimately be to our benefit.  

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