In October 2016, The New York Times published an article entitled, “Bottle-Flipping Craze Is Fun for Children but Torture for Parents.”
Like many other fads that develop these days, the bottle-flip challenge began based on a video posted online. During a talent show held in a school in Charlotte, North Carolina, a student holding a water bottle strutted up to a table while music was blaring in the background. With a dramatic pause, he flipped the bottle, which landed upright on the table. The crowd erupted in pandemonium. The video was quickly viewed millions of times. Since then, the Internet has been flooded with videos of people imitating the flip.
As a rebbe in yeshivah and in camp, I can testify that the craze has not abated. Students will often start flipping bottles just before, or after, and sometimes in the middle of shiur. My students know that doing so is an easy way to rankle me.
Apparently, I’m not the only adult who can’t stand the bottle flipping. The main issue is the annoying sound it makes, especially when it’s done repeatedly, as it usually is, because the first eight attempts are unsuccessful. Part of the problem is that kids are forever trying to do harder bottle flips, like on faraway places, moving targets, or narrow ledges.
Despite my disdain and annoyance with the bottle flip challenge, I feel that it carries some important symbolic significance. We like when life is smooth and predictable. The problem is that it hardly is. I often tell people that these days I’m trying to find, or even buy, a dull moment. The challenge is how to remain on your feet even after life has cast some harsh curveballs at you. It’s inevitable that events in life “sweep us off our feet” by pulling out the rug of stability from beneath our feet. Being able to maintain our composure and sense of equanimity during such trying times is no easy feat. The challenge is whether we can remain upright even when we feel like we are “on a narrow ledge.”
Whenever camp goes on a trip to an amusement park, my motto is that if G-d placed me on the ground, that is where I’ll stay. I sample the different benches and concession stands around the park and enjoy watching campers on the rides. But you can’t pay me enough to get on a roller coaster. But it seems that many people do enjoy that experience. They are willing to wait on long lines, for the relatively brief ride. They enjoy having their stomach, head, and legs get mushed together, while they get shaken up like a lulav.
There’s a thrill in going through loops and backwards at high speed, feeling like you’re in an out-of-control descent, all the while knowing that you’re going to end up back where you started in one piece.
Life is often a roller coaster. The significant difference is that life lacks predictability and we don’t know where we will end up. For that we need faith that life isn’t as random as it may feel.
The history of the Jewish people can aptly be described as a frightening roller coaster. There have been many great moments, but many vicissitudes, as well. Our national greatness is that we have never lost our footing. Despite having to endure endless suffering and wandering, through faith, courage, and commitment, we have never abandoned our mission.
So, while bottle flipping may enthrall millions of teens worldwide, I am not so impressed. The Jewish people have been successfully personifying the bottle flip for thousands of years and will continue to do so until the end of time.