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Three Butterflies

“Only a fool waits until death for reincarnation” – the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A few years ago, I bought a butterfly “kit” to do with my daughters. Basically it was a net container and a jar of caterpillars. After a week or two of crawling around aimlessly and eating, the caterpillars each formed a chrysalis hanging from the top of the container, and began their reincarnation.

Soon enough, a butterfly emerged from each chrysalis. But here’s where the parable component comes in: some emerged from their dramatic transformation in better shape than others.

In most of the cases, beautiful white butterflies emerged, and when it came time to set them free, they happily and healthily flew off, ready to begin their new ascendant lives.

A couple butterflies, though, came out a little lopsided, a little beat up from their transformation for whatever reason. When set free, they were however able to take off, start life anew, even if they flew more effortful, a little lopsided, or jagged.

But one butterfly tore it’s wing on the chrysalis on the way out. The very vessel of its transformation became its downfall. Instead of flying to to the top of the container, this butterfly fell to the bottom, one wing on the ground bleeding slightly, the other futilely and helplessly flapping. (I removed this guy before my daughters saw, btw).

And these three butterflies, I later realized, are emblematic of transformation, of reincarnation in life – and also emblematic of our fears therein. We all want to emerge from difficulty/epiphany/growth/change/evolution as that first butterfly, healthily leaping into the world anew, truly ascendant in our new form. But we often hold back, stay in our comfort zones, in the fear of being that third butterfly, wounded irreparably… and sometimes even hold back in fear of being the second, damaged butterfly, scared of the pain even if we know the result would be an overall improvement.

But I also realized that to stay in our comfort zones because of those fears, and an aversion to pain, meant living out our lives as caterpillars, stuck to the earth, to a safe monotony – and holding the knowledge that we could have flown.