Perek Shira, Chapter 4: The bat is saying, “Comfort my people, comfort them, says your Lord” (Isaiah 40:1)
I was out walking the other night, which I do on most evenings as I like to mix my daily exercise with hitbodedut (personal prayer). I feel blessed to walk in the Holy Land, to breathe in the pure Holy air and to be able to gaze out over the rolling hills of the most beautiful place on earth. I sometimes walk in the daytime, but nothing can top the tranquility of the calm, star-filled sky overhead during an evening stroll. Even without speaking a word, one can gain a sense of composure simply by allowing oneself to be enveloped by the atmosphere.
On this particular occasion as I was returning home, rounding a tree-lined stretch with a park on one side and an open valley on the other, I was suddenly startled by a strange sound and the sight of a flying creature swooping down toward me. At first glance I thought it was a bird, but it didn’t take much deducing to realize it was a bat! Though it probably wasn’t as close as it seemed, my heart skipped a beat and I ducked down and ran out onto the road, allowing the bat to enter the trees without my interference. I disappointed myself with my reaction as I recalled that when someone is securely connected to Hashem, he has nothing to fear. Instead, out of impulse and panic, the thought of rabies and getting a frenzied bat stuck in my hair consumed my common sense. (The latter would have been quite a feat since I cover my hair completely). I looked around to try to figure out where it was heading and why. Just past the park I noticed the tall building and knew that if pigeons could make their homes in the roofs, so could bats. That’s when the old expression “bats in the belfry” rang out in my mind. Where did this phrase come from and why did it suddenly pop into my brain? Everything happens for a reason and I sensed that this was one of those times when I had to look for the deeper meaning in this rare occurrence.
I realized right then and there, as strange as it may sound, the bat episode was telling me how invasive television and movies are to the mind. How so, you may wonder? Well, the whole concept of ‘bats in the belfry’ is not something I was taught in my home therefore it came from some very dated movie or T.V. show I had seen in my youth. Just as this weird, winged mammal nearly frightened me out my wits, so too we should be terrified of the effects of television and all the nonsense it transmits to our children and ourselves. It invades our inner thoughts and hides deep within, without our knowledge or permission, subtly waiting for the opportune time to reappear. Would we have even a tenth of the fears we have today if we hadn’t been bred on shows like ‘Criminal Minds’, ‘CSI’ and psychotic movies like ‘Saw’? Even though I grew up before terror was allowed on the big screen, I still remember so many non-Jewish and unwholesome concepts simply because I listened to and absorbed what was being broadcast innocently on children’s shows. That’s not even taking into account the extreme immodesty that is routinely portrayed as commonplace and acceptable everywhere we look. We can’t take back the past, yet like all our former deeds that we prefer to forget, we can simply resolve to make changes in our lives and ask G-d to help us carry out the transformation.