By Rabbi Heidi M. Cohen
Sometimes it’s so much easier to just fall into old habits or stay with the familiar. When I’m somewhere new or unfamiliar with, it’s easier to find a place to eat or stay that I’ve stayed at before. To branch out and try something new is uncertain. What if the food isn’t good or what if the room was too small and no wifi? It’s easier to go with the predictable but more interesting to go with the unfamiliar.
In this week’s parasha, they have been in the new and the uncertain. Every day has been “interesting” and a new adventure. But now, it’s starting to get old and fear is setting in as the man who took them out of their home for the past 400 years has disappeared into the cloud ontop of the mountain 40 days ago. Enough of this new, it’s time for something a little more familiar; time to reach back to that which the Israelites saw as having strength and power, time for a Golden Calf. But going back to this particular familiar was not the comfortable thing to do. It only led to death, punishment and forty years of wandering in uncertainty of what is yet to come.
Each of us are given the opportunity to stay with that which is comfortable or to try something new. It’s easy to keep old routines or hold on to that which is familiar. It takes work and an open mind willing to give something a chance.
This past week I tried something very new for me. I attended my first AIPAC, American Israel Public Relations Committee, Policy Conference in Washington DC. Admittedly, while I am a huge supporter of Israel and supporter of the Reform Movement’s work toward increasing support for Israel, I never really felt the strong pull to try something new, and this was very new!
AIPAC has always been seen in my eyes as something not necessary for me. While it is a bipartisan lobbying organization seeking only the best for Israel, I was afraid it was going to be too conservative for me. And yes, while there were times where some stood and applauded while I sat, there were times the I stood and applauded while they sat. But, that was ok. All of us were there for the same purpose, to support Israel by restating the importance of Israel and America’s strong relationship.
13,000 supporters of AIPAC converged into our US capital and said, it’s not enough to just do that which is comfortable, we have to try something new. We have to listen more closely and critically to all sides and state that we have one common goal, a strong and stable Jewish State of Israel.
Change is never easy, nor do I believe it is meant to be. But if we only stick with that which is comfortable, we will never stretch ourselves and discover something new that will enhance our lives. If we only want everything to stay the way it has always been, then we will be stuck at the bottom of the mountain, never moving forward to new lands and new experiences. Our world shrinks to the very small confines of that which we already know. As I have stretched myself this week (and will share more of at our Shabbat service on Friday night) I invite you, stretch yourself. Go beyond what is familiar, what is comfortable. It may not bring full satisfaction immediately, but you will grow from the experience.