From the Bima

Rabbi Howard S. Herman DD

Take A Leap from Fear to Faith

We live troubled lives in troubling times.  Some might even say the time we are living in is not just troubled but is downright scary.  All one needs to do is open your eyes and/or your ears and you would have to admit there is much to be afraid of.  Our civil rights are being chiseled away, women’s reproductive rights which held firm for fifty years have dwindled, our politicians do very little and seem to have an aversion to telling the truth, antisemitism is at the most dangerous point ever, religious service attendance is at an all-time low, university leadership refuses to protect their community’s students and as if all this were not enough we are faced with a national election in less than a year.  We are stressed, we are scared, we are confused, and we are in emotional pain not only as individuals but as communities as well.  We seem stuck in a place we don’t want to be.  It is almost as if we are mired in quicksand and are locked in place and without any help, we are doomed to suffocate there. 

In the 19th century there was a Swedish philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard who posited an idea that was to revolutionize our thinking.  He developed and postulated the idea of us taking a “leap of faith”.  The definition was, a person having to trust in something, despite the lack of logic, reason or rationality.  We leap, figuratively, to interact or explore this thing.  This sounds simple but it represents a radical act of commitment to an idea of belief, regardless of whether it can be rationally or empirically proven.  The 19th century Jewish philosopher Martin Buber notes that when the ancient Hebrew expresses belief, the Torah uses the language of believing in something, rather than believing that something is true—in Hebrew—Ma-amin beh not Ma-amin she.  What is the difference?  When I say, “I believe that”, I am asserting that I judge a proposition to be true.  For instance, I believe “climate change” is real.  Based on the preponderance scientific data, I believe that the planet is warming, and that serious weather threats are more common than at any time in recent history.  On the other hand, to say that I believe in something is to affirm that I have an investment in a process that allows me to affirm life. 

This is what faith looks like.  Faith is the belief that gives us strength to forge ahead as we continue to move forward even though there are a series of forks in the road, and as we do so, we navigate the detours along the way.  In this way, we all lead productive lives, negotiating our way between success and failure, hand in hand as we walk together through lives of uncertainty. 

When the entire Jewish nation stood in front of the Red Sea, they were confronted by a terrible dilemma; whether to take a “leap of faith” into the Red Sea or return to Egypt.  Nachshon, from the tribe of Yehudah, was the first person to take that “leap of faith” and jump into the sea.  As he moved deeper into the water, he started to realize that life was about leaving their old life and moving forward.  The water eventually reached his nostrils and at that moment the Red Sea split.  When Nachshon was walking through the sea, he felt alive and free.  He had the courage to take a “leap of faith” to leave a bad situation and move toward something new, even though he didn’t know what that “new” was. 

Thinking everything will be ok just because, is not the way to go.  When facing our own challenges, it helps to remind ourselves that although our comfort zone is nice, we might want to step out of it occasionally, especially when it comes to an issue we would like to procrastinate.  If you remain in your comfort zone too long your best option to solve the issue may be gone.  But by taking a leap of faith and throwing yourself into the unknown that act can sometimes be most rewarding.  It means that you fully surrender to all expectations that you and others have ever had of yourself.  It means that you allow yourself to start anew and in doing so feel completely free. 

Shalom Uvracha

Rabbi Howard S. Herman DD

Naples Jewish Congregation