Leaving the Comfort Zone
How do we build the courage to draw upon that light we discovered in December and move forward to a new life – spiritually, socially, financially, or educationally? How do we gain the courage to leave our comfort zone, even when we know that place may not be the best place for us, and seek a new and better life? Think about Moses! He left his comfort zone not once, but twice in his life! He was brought up in the comfort of the palace of the Pharaoh, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. One day, says the Bible, when he grew up, he went out from the palace and saw the suffering of the Jewish people. What made him go out of the palace? Why did he expose himself to the suffering of others, when he could have lived his life in the splendid isolation of royal comfort? According to the midrash, though his biological mother, Jocheved, was with him only in the earliest years of his life, she succeeded in imbuing him with a Jewish identity. He left the palace, because he was curious about other Jews and how they lived. When he saw their suffering and their toil, he could not bear it. He was moved to action. His life would never be the same again. The Torah does not tell us how Moses gained the courage to leave his comfort zone the first time, or how he may have weighed the decision to see his fellow Hebrews. We know more about his feelings the second time he left his comfort zone. That was when he was a married shepherd with a son in Midian, and was called by G-d at the burning bush to return to Egypt and lead the Jewish people to freedom. We do know that he was reluctant at first to undertake this monumental task. He had a great deal of anxiety. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? What if the people do not believe me? Send someone else, for I am not a man of words. You have plenty of people You can send. It is not my role to lead the people out of Egypt.” Finally, G-d stopped trying to convince him, and commanded him to go. Let us compare these two transitions in Moses’ life. The first time, when Moses went out to see his brethren, he was acting on a desire that was unfolding within him. It was his own curiosity, his desire for connection with others like himself that led him to leave the confines of the palace and his old life. His mother had planted the seeds within him early in life, and those seeds were now blossoming and bearing fruit. The second time, in his meeting with G-d at the burning bush, he was dragged into a new life. Whether G-d actually commanded him, or he only felt commanded, he could not, no matter how hard he tried, resist his duty. This meant leaving a comfortable existence for the second time in his life and embarking on a new life with new challenges. We all have “Moses moments” in our lives. There are times when the place that we are in becomes too restrictive for us. Something within us, perhaps planted long ago, seeks expression. We are no longer satisfied with the confines of our existence, and we take a risk to move forward to seek something new. Like Moses, we cannot be sure what we will find, or how it will affect us. Moses could not have known when he ventured beyond the palace walls, what he would discover, how he would react, or how it would change his life. Then there are the times when we are, like Moses at the burning bush, dragged out of our comfortable existence against our will. It may be through the loss of a job, a death of a spouse, an illness, an opportunity we cannot resist, a retirement, even a compelling spiritual experience. Like Moses we feel we have no choice but to move on to a new life. We cannot know, when we take those first tentative steps toward something new, down what path it will lead us. That is where courage comes in. Robert Frost said that “Courage is the ability to act with limited knowledge and insufficient evidence. That is all any of us have, and so we must have the courage to go ahead and act on a hunch. It is the best we can do.” With perseverance, and with G-d’s help, we can move on to a better, more satisfying life.