Yom Rivii, 28 Tishri 5778
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Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah--Vayak'heil/P'kudei

Have you ever been so afraid of entering into an event or a conversation that you can’t speak or move your feet? You know, the times that you feel paralyzed because you long to be inside … to be involved, but are unable to muster the courage to make it happen. You stand there, awkwardly hoping someone will pull you in; or push you in. If only we had the faith to take the plunge. If only someone would push or pull us in. All too often, you simply stand there and then the moment and opportunity pass, and then you get angry with yourself for squandering the moment.

We have all experienced this emotional trauma: the case with any first date; the way we feel when we see a job posting that we know we would love but are too afraid of rejection. Sometimes, we experience the blessing of someone else taking the lead. Most often, we end up, adding to our struggle the angst of missing our shot. I can tell you that, as faithful as I believe that I am, were it not for Lori pushing me to accept what she knew that I wanted, we would not have married, and I would be kicking myself still. We are not always blessed with someone to pull us through. We need to have enough faith in ourselves to make it happen, or most often we will miss out.

We feel this fear when we have the urge to pray. Many people feel silly praying. Our faith wants to believe that God performs miracles. Our worldly experience watches and observes too much pain to accept this belief unqualifiedly. Maimonides authored the “13 Principles of Faith.” He argued that one had to have “emunah shlaemah – perfect faith” in these principles in order to be faithful. Many read them literally and scoff, “If this is what faith is, I don’t agree with set rules.” They don’t engage the text to realize that the goal of faith is to engage these texts, not obey them. We know that we want to pray and feel a spiritual connection, but we fear that there is nothing there and it is a waste of time. We want “proof” before we take the first step.

Torah forces us to look deeply into this conundrum. As the book of Exodus ends, Moses finishes the Tabernacle. He then turned it over to his brother Aaron, the High Priest. The text reads, “Moses was not able to enter the Tabernacle because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of God filled the Tabernacle (40:35).”

Rav Zerika (roughly 2200 years ago) raised the following contradiction: One verse reads, “Moses was not able to enter into the Tabernacle because the cloud rested on it,” whereas another verse (Exodus 24:18) says, “Moses entered into the midst of the cloud”? Rav Zerika points out that even Moses suffered the fear/inability to act. The Torah did not say that God forbade Moses from entering, nor that Moses did not want to enter only that he was not able to enter it. According to Rav Zerika, “This is to tell us that God took hold of Moses and brought him into the cloud.” Moses was blessed that God would be mindful of the need to pull him into the conversation. Using this metaphor, if even a Moses sometimes lacks the courage to take the first steps on a sacred journey, we know that it is normal for us to be afraid, as well. In the sense that we commit to being ‘b’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God,” we have to be willing to help people fulfill their goals and dreams. If we spent more time serving each other this way, there would be less need to usurp each other’s blessings and hold each other back. Where are you afraid to travel, but so want to go? Where are you afraid of failing, but desperately want to accept a new challenge? It is time to share. It is time to help each other, as my colleague Rabbi David Wolpe wrote, “Grow Your Soul.” It is time for us to help make each others’ dreams come true. Shabbat Shalom.