We live in a society that celebrates ease. Why go through the back breaking labor of washing sheets and towels by hand, when you can use a washing machine? Today no one questions spending millions of dollars in research and development to develop a better product whose only advantage is that it saves a few flicks of the index finger.
How many of us sometimes haven’t chosen a particular path because it was just a little bit hard? The mantra “it’s so hard” can be heard everywhere. Some people choose not to have a family or to raise children because it will impinge on their work day. Some people who can start their own company opted out because of the major effort that would be involved. Some people walk away from opportunities to help other people in significant ways, not because we can’t afford the time or money, but because we can’t envision crossing that comfort divide. “IT’S SO HARD”. Yet during this season we read about Moses. Moses understood that even though he could not make it to the Promised Land, he still derived much meaning from the journey, the journey of guiding the Jewish people.
A story comes to mind that crystallizes this idea. A man was on his death bed discussing with his children what he wanted written on tombstone. It was not being a CEO of a company, loved to travel or eat fine foods, but he wanted three simple words written on his tombstone, “HE DIED CLIMBING”, he died climbing.
G-d asks this of us, from each and every one of us. No matter our background, our affiliation, or our age. On both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we read Psalm 24 written by King David. King David asks in the words of the Psalmists, “Who is the one who will rise up to G-d? Who will stand up in his Holy place? I believe the answer to the question as to who will rise up to G-d is in the question itself. Who will rise up? The one who is rising, the one who is constantly climbing, the one who is constantly striving, the one who sees challenges as an opportunity for spiritual growth.
When we see life this way, the mantra of “it’s so hard” becomes a lone voice in a cavernous space. What motivates us is not comfort, ease or immediate pleasure, but rather the deep sense of fulfillment and meaning that we are in sync with our souls. In fact, King David, I believe, answers this question, not only through the question, but through the answer.
King David writes in the book of Psalms who is the one who will ascend to G-d? One with clean hands and pure heart, who has not sworn in vain my soul. One whose purpose in life, is not in vain, but one who is whole when we are living to our spiritual potential, we will ascend to G-d. The word that is used is Kapiam which means hands, to express the fact that the one who ascends is the one who utilizes his Kapiam, his hands in service of G-d. Kapiam, in fact means, not the hands, but the palms. We all have different blessings that we receive from G-d. We all have different gifts, different talents we must remember.
What G-d gives to us is our potential. Our gift back to G-d is what we do with our potential. Perhaps that is why it says, who will ascend to the Holy place. Perhaps King David is referring back to the model of Moses. Moses who at the beginning of his journey as a leader said to G-d, G-d I am not capable of taking the Jewish people out. I have a lisp. I cannot speak properly. G-d says to Moses “who is the one that gave you the power to hear? Who is the one who gave you the power to speak? It is I and I am calling upon you.”
If we find ourselves in a situation in a particular place and time we have the potential to make it Holy. Do not say it is so hard. Do not say you cannot do it. When G-d asks Moses to take off his shoes at the burning bush he says take off your shoes from this place because the place where you are standing is Holy. Where YOU are standing you have the potential for greatness.
What obstacles are you facing? What action can you take outside your comfort zone to grow to your potential? Identify a time in your life when you “stretched grew. How can this experience serve as a source of strength for new challenges in your life?
A Rabbi once said “It is a mistake to think that great people do great things, in truth it is people who do great things that become great people.”
Rabbi Daniel Cohen