“We must remember that we do not observe nature as it actually exists, but nature exposed to our methods of perception.” (Einstein)
How real then is reality? Well, it depends on what it is that we base our perceptions.
If our starting point is inertia, comfort seeking, and pleasure chasing, then indeed, our perceptions are rather fickle.
There’s another path, however, another place to base the very beginning of our perceptions.
Hashem speaks to us through reality, and that speech is heard by our perception.
Hashem Himself created our faculty of perception as the means through which He would speak to us — therefore, the ability to perceive is as real as reality itself.
But we must remember that reality is only as real as it’s basis. For the non-believer reality is merely an extension of their flimsy existence.
But for the believer, reality, rooted as it is in the ultimate Source —Hashem — is rock-solid.
In the Parshah this week we read about Ballam. He was a man whose perceptions ran deep. As a prophet he was able to define reality not only for himself but for his generation.
And so he sought to create a world-perception where Jews were not welcome — where Jews could not exist.
It was here that he hit a brick wall. Against his will he learned that the Jewish nation is an integral part of reality.
Perception —even Ballam-level perception — is the tool which allows us to connect with reality. But reality itself —the Source of it all — is beyond perception, it is infinite.
The story has a sad ending.
What Ballam couldn’t possibly do to us we did to ourselves.
Instead of living rooted in the infinite Source of reality, we chased the fleeting pleasures offered by the Moabite women.
The beginning point of our perception shifted.
Instead of being rooted in the infinite will of Hashem, we now are rooted in the base desires of a corrupted value system.
No one can put us in a box, but we sure can climb right on in ourselves.
And that means that it’s in our hands to climb right back on out.