Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It’s an old classic fairy tale. A little curious or naughty girl named Goldilocks chanced upon a house in the woods where three bears live. The house was empty, but there were three bowls of porridge on the table. One was too hot, the next one was too cold, but the third one was: “just right” – not too hot, and not too cold. Then she tried their their beds, and the same thing happens. One bed is too hard, the next too soft and the third one is “just — (right)”.
Then the bears come home and they gradually discover what happened to their porridge, that someone had been sitting in their chairs, and sleeping in their beds. And they come upon Goldilocks sleeping in that just-right bed of the baby bear. Frightened and startled she jumped out of the window and ran away, and that’s the end of this classic story.
It’s a silly old fairy tale, everyone knows that. But as the Baal Shem Tov said, there’s a lesson to be learned from everything.
Most say that it’s a moral lesson about respecting other people’s property. It highlights the dangers of entitlement and the risks of trespassing. These are no doubt very important lessons, especially for children.
So why all the emphasis in the story on her trying three bowls of porridge and the three different beds?
There’s another lesson here, that has uses in every area of science and human endeavor and that’s called the Goldilocks Principle or the Goldilocks Zone. Our planet earth is said to be in the Goldilocks zone, neither too far nor too close to the sun, in a “just right” place that is perfect to support life. Any economics majors here tonight? A Goldilocks economy is when there’s enough growth to sustain the economy but not too much growth that causes high inflation. In politics there’s the well-known extremes of the left and right and the (all too quiet) center. The Goldliocks principle can be found everywhere. Maimonides speaks of the Goldilocks principle when he advocates for the middle road in most areas of life, a sustainable and healthy balance that doesn’t go too far to either extreme.
You’ll find the Goldilocks Principle at play in the Giving of the Torah as well.
There’s a popular Medrash that describes G-d looking around for best venue for the Giving of the Torah. One mountain said he was the tallest, another mountain said she was most beautiful. But G-d chose Sinai because of its humility. It wasn’t the tallest, it wasn’t the prettiest, but it was humble.
The (Alter) Rebbe asks: if looking for humility, why go with a mountain at all? Why not choose a valley instead?
The Rebbe explains that humility doesn’t mean to be a doormat. Humility is compatible with a sense of pride and confidence. A healthy self-esteem is a balance between the extremes of arrogance on one hand and a lack of self-respect on the other. There’s a Goldilocks point in the middle that allows for confidence and pride yet is filled with humility.
So a mountain like Sinai was a perfect spot. Not too lowly like a valley, and not too haughty like the mighty mountains, Sinai was just — (right).
From a Chassidic perspective, the Giving of the Torah had a deeper Goldilocks principle at work. Chassidus explains that a core mission of the Giving of the Torah is about the fusion and synthesis of the physical and the spiritual. Each Mitzvah is a blend of the spiritual and the physical, and our lives as Jews are intended to be a fusion of both. Shabbos is a wonderful example of how we can blend the physical and spiritual in a beautiful harmony.
People can err on either size of the equation. Some might be too spiritual and lose touch of the mission to connect with the physical. Others are very into the physical side of things but aren’t infusing enough spirituality and holiness into it.
Hitting the right spot, finding the optimum blend of spiritual and physical can be quite the challenge. That’s the Goldilocks zone of where heaven and earth meet.
It’s lots of fun to use a story like Goldilocks as a parable for a Torah concept. And the Goldilocks Principle of that optimal point blending extremes is very fitting for the Torah. But hey, what about the bears? Wasn’t Goldilocks trespassing and eating their porridge? She had no business being in their home!
There’s an important Torah message here too. Our goal is to take our world and make it a dwelling place for G-dliness. Our mission is to fuse the spiritual and physical in our lives. But you don’t need to go to the bears house to do that! In fact you should not!
Chassidus calls this Chelkicha Ba’Olam, your spot in this world. Our mission is to our own space, to our own porridge and to our own bed. We’re supposed to take our place in this world, our living and work spaces, our social circles and all that we interact with and uplift it and transform it and connect it with holiness and meaning.
But we can’t uplift someone else’s porridge. That’s their job. Here’s another spiritual lesson from Goldilocks: don’t be trying out someone else’ life situation, don’t dream of some ideal circumstance. Our Divine mission is with who we are and with what we have. Everyone has their own Goldilocks balance, it’s different for each of us. There’s no point of seeking someone else’s Goldilocks spot. We must each find our own!
May the Goldilocks Principle be Goldilocks Blessings for all of us. May we each seek and find, throughout our lifetimes that Goldilocks spot, that magical blend, that synthesis of the paradoxical forces in the life, to find that balance which works for us and speaks to us. May we be blessed to connect the spiritual and physical in our lives, and may everything be just —- (right!).