February 2020

Of the Book

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Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone

By Rabbi Daniel Bortz

“Discomfort” and “change” might not be our favorite words of choice. But what if your life begins where your comfort zone ends?

This month we read the Torah portions focused on the great leader Moshe [Moses] and the audacious exodus from Egypt under his command. What made Moshe uniquely worthy to lead such an incredible mission? Let’s look at the moment G-d asks him to take on the mission at the burning bush:

‘So Moshe said, “let me turn now and see this great spectacle, why does the thorn bush not burn up?” The L-rd saw that he had turned to see, and G-d called to him from within the thorn bush … And He said, “Take your shoes off your feet.”’

What did Moshe do here that impressed G-d so much? Wouldn’t any of us stop and take a look if we saw such a spectacle?

Moshe was wise. He realized what turning to explore this miracle would entail. A person of his level understood he now had to make a decision whether to leave life as he knew it behind and enter a new, scary and uncertain phase. His decision was yes, he would heed the call. Just like when he saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave and risked his life to intervene, leading him to flee his palace into the desert so many years before.

Why did God respond to this decision with a request to remove shoes from his feet? The Hebrew word for “foot” is “regel” and the word for “normal” has the same letters — “ragil” (maybe the word “regular” in English stems from this). So G-d was telling Moshe: “Remove what you considered until now as normal.” To make a real change in the world, we have to embrace meaningful risks that may be uncomfortable.

At first glance, it seems Moshe just happened upon this situation. But we know that “success is when preparation meets opportunity.” Our opportunities are gifts from above, but it’s our work and determination over time that makes us fitting to receive and then seize that opportunity. We don’t always get what we want, we get what we are.

“And Moshe was 80 years old, and Aaron was 83 years old when they spoke with Pharaoh.” Abraham was 75 when G-d spoke to him. Like most successful people we see in today’s culture, we read very little in the written Torah about the life journeys of our leaders until they are chosen for their awe inspiring roles of saving the world. But we best believe they earned those opportunities.

Becoming an exceptional, virtuous person is a life long journey. The gains are not immediately noticed, and there are numerous failures along the way. But if we look to continually work on improving our character traits, personal skills and talents – always willing to leave our comfort zones in search for truth – may we be worthy to merit to have opportunities to step into our purpose and make our unique impact on this world.

Let’s stay driven and patient, using every day and moment as opportunities to develop. You haven’t failed, you’re just early. And when the time finally comes to step up, let’s be ready to heed the call.

 

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