In my recent job search I have encountered so much fear. Fear that I will be too outspoken; fear that I won't be able to please everyone; fear of my abilities and capacities - that I'm overqualified for certain positions. Even before my search began I sensed almost paralyzing fears in the Jewish community: Fear of losing members, fear of competition from other Jewish organizations, fear of upsetting our constituents and supporters, fear of not being relevant anymore.
It has always seems to me that fear is the beginning of death. When we operate from a place of fear we slowly begin our decline into oblivion. When we make choices out of concern for how it may offend others or make us look then we are no longer making choices based on Jewish values. When we are acting out of a desire to survive rather than thrive then we are sealing our own fate. This assures that we will survive only until we are no longer viable.
Abraham Joshua Heschel talks about us religious folk needing to take a leap of action rather than just a leap of faith. Either way it is a leap. By definition you are going to be up in the air for some amount of time and where and how you land is somewhat uncertain. This is the nature of being a people of faith. We live in the space between heaven and earth. If we are too high in the clouds then we cease being human. If we are too grounded to the earth then we give up our capacity to be God's holy partners.
To be fully Jewish, to be fully human means to be willing to take a leap of faith and action and shout our values from the tops of our lungs as we soar. But too often, fear keeps us planted in the ground. It prevents us from fully realizing our dreams and actualizing them. Fear represses our values and tells us that the status quo is good enough. Fear tells us that we cannot collaborate because we must protect ourselves and our institution at all cost. Fear tells us that we dare not innovate because we've always done it this way and it has worked thus far. Fear protects us from what we are meant to become.
Reb Nachman was right, “the world is a very narrow bridge. But the main thing is not to be afraid.”
Imagine if we could build Jewish communities and have Jewish leaders (and we do have some) who spent more time working for social justice than having to justify and get approval for their causes before a board of directors. Imagine if our synagogues and temples worked together to experiment and innovate rather than compete and subjugate (again there are some that do).
We are meant to be like the angels - we have legs but sometimes our wings are more valuable. We have work to do. We have Jews and Jewish communities to become.
What are we afraid of?