There is a beautiful saying in the Midrash and Zohar: “If we open a hole the size of a needle, Hashem opens it wide enough for a chariot to pass through.”
I’ve always believed that small choices can lead to big changes, but this saying, at first glance, seemed like an exaggeration. But then I read a book called The One Thing, by Gary Keller, which contains a discussion of the “domino effect.” This effect is based on the fact that toppling one domino leads to the toppling of many more dominoes. Interestingly, though, the dominoes need not be the same size. A tiny domino can ultimately lead to the toppling of a large one.
Lorne Whitehead in the American Journal of Physics first explored this phenomenon in the early 1980s, and in 2001, an experiment of his account was conducted in San Francisco using eight plywood dominoes, each 50 percent larger than the proceeding one. The first one was only two inches tall and the last one was close to three feet tall. And yet, the first tiny domino falling set off a chain reaction that ended with the toppling of the three-foot domino.
Imagine if we went further, writes Keller. The 18th domino would be the size of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Domino number 23 would be the height of the Eiffel Tower, and domino number 31 would be higher than Mount Everest. Number 57? Forget it. That’s almost the distance to the moon!
So yes, one small deed can indeed lead to an enormous opening in our connection to, and with, G-d.
I’ll never forget the look of excitement on my daughter Emmy’s face when I played dominoes with her for the first time. I explained to her that a chain reaction could, not only result in the toppling of larger and larger dominoes, but go on for miles. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest domino chain went on for 2.6 miles.
In other words, the game of dominoes is a wonderful physical representation of the famous Torah precept of “mitzvah goreret mitzvah – one mitzvah leads to another.” When we jump-start our day with a positive mitzvah, a chain reaction can take place. Indeed, sometimes, it’s the decisions we don’t attach much significance to that initiate the chain reaction.
But that’s not all. Without dominoes standing close enough to each other, no magical domino effect will ensue. They must stand together for each domino to topple the other. In other words, unity is a prerequisite for this most powerful effect.
The same is true for the Jewish people to thrive. We are stronger when we’re united. When we join together in prayer and concern, we are unstoppable.
Another game that represents unity is Rummikub. The specific number on the Rummikub tiles a person picks is irrelevant. What’s relevant is their connection to the numbers on other tiles. One cannot place a tile down by itself. It must be grouped with others. A player needs to unite a minimum of three tiles of the same numbers or a string of three tiles with consecutive numbers together to progress. It is unity that gives a person the power to win the game.
And such is true in life. It is unity that makes the individual powerful.
Rabbi Zacharia Wallerstein once related that a wealthy man owned two strong horses that he bought in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. One day, he loaded his wagon, tied his horses to the front, and set out on a journey. En route, the wagon fell into a ditch, and the horses, despite their strength, were not able to pull it out.
The owner hit one of the horses, but they didn’t budge. He then hit the other. Still nothing
Along came a man with two donkeys who said to wealthy individual, “Unstrap your horses. My donkeys will pull the wagon out.”
“How could they?” the man chuckled, “If my expensive horses from Saudi Arabia and Egypt can’t do the job, what chance do your cheap donkeys have?”
The other man replied, “It’s worth a try, isn’t it?”
So he attached his donkeys to the wagon and then lifted his hand to hit one of them. Before his hand even made contact, the two donkeys used all their might and succeeded in pulling the wagon out.
“How did you do that?” the astonished horse owner asked.
“Simple,” the man replied. “You bought one horse from Saudi Arabia and another from Egypt. My donkeys, though, were born and raised together. They are like brothers. Your horse saw the other one being hit and didn’t care. My donkey saw that I was about to hit the other one, and they both gave their all to pull the wagon out.”
United hearts can do wonders and is the secret to the success of the Jewish nation. When we unite as one and make small changes, we can achieve anything.