Between A Rock And A Hard Place

One of the most difficult challenges we each face on a daily basis is to find that space between arrogant over-estimation of our individual power and self-abnegation leading to the equally false illusion of total powerlessness and apathy.

The Torah portion Sh’mini tells the story of Nadav and Avihu who overestimate their own preparedness and power and therefore perish bringing their self-generated אש זרה, aish zarah, “strange fire”, i.e. uninvited initiative, into the Mishkan, Sanctuary.  Just a week ago on Purim, we read the exchange in the Megillah after Mordechai tells Esther to inform the king of Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people.  At first she protests that everyone knows that to approach the king without being summoned potentially carries a death penalty.  Mordechai implores Esther, אַל־תְּדַמִּי בְנַפְשֵׁךְ, Al T’dami b’nafshech, Don’t mute your soul. Don’t lose yourself in a sense of impotence because the fate of the entire world could well depend on your action!

In this life, we can neither rush in like the proverbial bull in a china shop.  Nor can we allow ourselves to become petrified with fear.  Rather, we should trust ourselves and the moral code we continuously struggle to integrate and understand and then proceed to do our part.  Remember, no one else can do your job and without it the universe will remain incomplete.

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