Uncertainty: Going Outside Your Comfort Zone

We are creatures of habit. We get used to patterns and ways of life. Yet sometimes something occurs which pushes us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s a “burning bush moment” where we’re hit in the face with what we are supposed to do. At other times it’s more subtle.

At breakfast after Monday morning minyan, we discussed predestination versus free will. In a world which is predestined, everything is certain: we can be like Joseph and believe that everything occurred because of Divine Providence. In a world centered on free will, however, nothing is certain: we are like Moses, questioning everything. That is where we find ourselves in this week’s reading.

At the burning bush, Moses questioned G-d not once, not twice, not even three times but four. He began with מי אנכי כי אלך אל פרעה וכי אוציא את בנ”י ממצרים?, “Who am I to go before Pharaoh and lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt?”[1] This is often showcased as Moses’ humility. Rashi says, “How am I important enough to speak with kings?”[2] Ibn Ezra comments, “Who am I to free such a great people?”[3] Rashbam sees it differently, that Moses is assessing the futility of the situation: “Even if I were worthy of entering Pharaoh’s presence for other matters, as far as freeing the Israelites goes, what could I say to Pharaoh that he would accept? Is Pharaoh foolish enough to listen to me and send a huge people, who are his slaves, away free from the land.”[4]

I wonder what would have happened if Moses had gotten his way-instead of going to Pharaoh, he would have stayed and continued shepherding his father-in-law Yitro’s flock. Certainly it would have been a simpler life and put fewer gray hairs on his head. Yet Moses would not have been fulfilling his purpose in life. Part of what it means to be a “man of faith” is to step outside one’s comfort zone and go in the way one is pulled. The key is to remember G-d’s reply to Moses: כי אהיה עמך, “For I will be with you.”[5] When we feel vulnerable and alone, let us remember that G-d is with us. Similarly, when we feel that what we’ve set to do was futile or a waste of time, let us remember that G-d is present in the moment. Going yesterday to The Bristal Assisted Living to lead Shabbat services for 2 Jewish residents who had just moved in was far from a waste of time for me. I remembered my rabbi who taught me Amos in high school who said ‘I will teach you even if it’s just you and me,’ and look at the impact he made.

There are infinite possibilities in store for us in 2019. What we need to do is to be open to each of them as they arrive and accept them as they are. Rather than engage in the whirlwind of negative thoughts and emotions, in which I include “false humility” (undervaluing your strengths and thinking you are not the right person for a task when you are), let us strive to ascend to greater heights rather than staying within our comfort zone or resting on our laurels. Most importantly, when we feel uncertain or we second guess, let us remember that just like with Moses, אהיה, the Divine Presence, is in our midst, and may this give us the courage to do what we must. כן יהי רצון-may it be our will to do so.

[1] Exodus 3:11

[2] Rashi on Genesis 3:11 ד”ה מי אנכי

[3] Ibn Ezra on Genesis 3:11 ד”ה מי אנכי

[4] Rashbam on Genesis 3:11 ד”ה וכי אוציא את בנ”י ממצרים

[5] Genesis 3:12

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