There is an old chassidisher mayseh (Hasidic tale) of an innkeeper that could not afford to pay the rent and so the squire throws him and his family into a pit. Somehow they manage to survive in the pit and life goes on. They have children and their children have children. While the original family remembered the world outside, they have a hard time describing it to the new generation that has never seen a world filled with trees and animals, a blue sky and oceans.
A Mishnah taught: If a woman returned from overseas and said, ‘I had a child, but my child died and then my husband died,’ she is believed. If she says, ‘My husband died and then my child,’ she is not believed for that would mean she could marry anybody without having to perform the levirate marriage (yibum) with her brother-in-law. Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, she must still perform the levirate marriage annulment (chalitzah).
The Gemara asks: Should we not be concerned lest witnesses arrive and testify in accordance with her words? Their testimony would necessitate a public declaration that the chalitzah was unnecessary and she is permitted to marry a cohen, which would cause confusion if people missed the declaration and would assume that a chalutzah may marry a cohen!
Rabbi Hiya the son Rabbi Huna answers: We are dealing with a case where she says that we were in a cave when they died, i.e. there were no other witnesses.
The first question I would ask this woman is, ‘If nobody saw your husband and child die, how do I know you didn’t poison them?’
Life inside a cave or a pit can get quite comfortable after a while. You lock yourself out of the world around you and you begin to live a life completely oblivious to the real world outside. Nobody bothers you, nobody asks any questions and live is peaceful. But deep down, you know that there’s a world beyond the walls of Plato’s cave. (That’s right, eventually Plato borrowed the chassidisher mayseh.) But it’s too difficult to face the real world until the day you find yourself all alone in the cave.
Many people go through life living in the cave. They work, they play, they vacation. But they never bother asking themselves, ‘What’s the point of it all? Why are we here?’ It’s much easier to stay inside the cave of oblivion than to face the real world outside. But if you would only open your eyes and take a peek outside, you would see a beautiful world filled with trees and mountains and stars and seas! Do you have the courage to look outside the cave?
The Almighty created you with a higher purpose. You are a spiritual being trapped in a physical world. But the world is not real; it’s just a pit, just a cave. When you realize that, your whole outlook on life changes as you begin to understand your spiritual mission in life.
The cave is not reality. You are only poisoning yourself and your loved ones when you live a life devoid of meaning and higher purpose. May you merit the courage to look outside the cave and see the real world in all the Creator’s glory!