Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah -B’shalach

Don Quixote (Man of Lamancha) sang, “Dream the impossible dream … To run where the brave dare not go.” The song never says, “Don’t be afraid.” Of course, we are afraid and unsure. The world continuously presents our search for peace incredible challenges. The news challenges our sense of righteousness. We struggle in interpersonal relationships. We don’t know into which next mind field we are about t walk, and too often step only gingerly to avoid conflict at all cost. But, the song never said, “Don’t be afraid.”

The song continues, “And the world will be better for this, that one man scorned and covered with scars Still strove with his last ounce of courage.” Be afraid, but go forth, anyway. The only difference between courage and fear is, as Dr. King put it, “Taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

It takes courage and faith to go into the abyss. It is this courage and faith that drove Israel to enter the sea to escape Pharaoh. The tradition teaches that as Pharaoh’s chariots thundered towards Israel, they had a choice to make: be carried off back into Egypt and servitude or take the leap of faith into the only path of escape available. They entered the water, and the sea parted.

Historical or not, this story becomes the paradigm for every leap of faith. We speak of it in many ways. In its most benign usage, we speak of “The devil you know versus the devil you don’t know.” People hide from the leap knowing the pain they face, too afraid to try stepping into freedom. In a more classic sense, we find ourselves able to overcome our fear in everything from our everyday physical, spiritual, and intellectual growth to the first steps we take to do the work of changing the world.

Too often, our comfort zones are respites from facing fear. Comfortable or uncomfortable, we hide there. Faith and courage are not supposed to be comfortable. When Jacob wrestles with the angel, his hip wrenches. It is only through the wrestling match, though, that we grow past what we think we can do – past what we think we can be. It takes courage to be the athlete who digs deep into her soul for that last push to gold, the firefighter who launches into the fire to carry out a disabled senior, or the timid voice that finds the strength to stridently speak out for a cause in need of a champion. It took courage to walk into the sea.

Every day, we face some challenges that open opportunities to do something that positively impacts the world and our place in it. Sometimes, we are afraid. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” More colloquially, we know that we will never grow if we don’t make an effort. “You will never score any points if you never take a shot.” “She will never know you care if you don’t tell her.” And, you are never alone in this place of challenge. Margaret Mead taught us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Take the plunge. Change your world. Change the World. Shabbat Shalom.