In Torah study yesterday, we investigated a rather strange rule in the book of Exodus about a slave who has earned his freedom and yet decides he wants to remain an indentured servant. In such a case, his master was instructed to take him to the doorway and pierce his ear as a sign of his confinement for life. This entire scenario is hard for us to grasp on so many levels. But the idea I wanted to explore was why someone would choose to remain restricted when freedom was just out the door. This seems anathema to us.
But even in our own lives many of us behave this way. We complain about a relationship, our bodies or jobs, but do nothing to change our circumstances. It may be easier to moan than to actually take the risk of making a change. You may be familiar with the story about a construction worker who complains everyday about his lunch, the same thing every day. And each day he rolls his eyes and says, "Peanut butter and jelly – again!" One day his colleague finally says, "Why don't you tell your wife to pack you something different?!" "My wife?!" the man replies. "I pack my own lunch!"
It's true that we are often more comfortable with moaning about the way things are rather than taking the risk of walking through the doorway. A story from our tradition says that only about 20% of our ancestors left Egypt. 80% stayed confined in Egypt because it was the safer choice.
After I left Torah study in the morning, I took my daughter to her weekly Parkour workout. For those of you who don't know what Parkour is, it is a sport where you get from point A to point B with the fewest possible moves -- that is, leaping, jumping, climbing or even – astonishingly -- flying! (watch this video but do not try at home! Video)
I sit at her Parkour studio, week after week, watching jaw dropping stunts, with people scampering up flat walls with nothing to grasp onto, flying from fence to fence, or flinging themselves off a pole to land on a sliver of bar. Watching this week, was particularly stunning after a morning discussing how frequently fear holds us back and shackles us. When someone commits to doing Parkour, they have to check their fear at the door. There is simply no way to leap off a wall with fear by your ankles. (Which isn't to say that a mother of someone who does Parkour isn't worried sick.)
A small dose of caution prevents us from crashing, just as the expression "look before you leap" warns. But what happens when the caution prevents us from changing, growing and taking healthy risks?
The story of the slave in Exodus is a reminder to us to consider all the ways we allow ourselves to remain confined, and the work each of us needs to do to truly liberate ourselves. We live in a world full of risks. What's holding you back from flying?