Somewhere in course of circus history, the net was eliminated. Now, the acrobat was asked to walk the same distance and perform the same feats, but with one distinction: if he were to fall, there would be nothing there to catch him.
Imagine the electricity in the air the first time that act was performed. There was the tightrope walker, doing the same act that he’d performed thousands of times before, but now one slip, one misstep, and he’d fall to his death on the concrete below. No matter how many times he’d walked the high wire before, this time was different. He was galvanized by the excitement, exhilarated by the danger.
That is an apt parable to our hishtadlus. We have to go about life like that tightrope walker, taking our efforts very seriously, and acting as if the outcome is completely dependent on them. Our attitude has to be, “If I don’t put in the adequate exertion I will fail and fall to the concrete below.” All the while, though, we must know that there is a safety net. Hashem is there to help and support us, and even more, Hashem completely directs every action in our lives. This is the proper balance we must strike between putting in our own efforts and trusting in Hashem’s close involvement.