Nothing to fear but fear itself

Nothing to fear but fear itself

Parashat Shemini, Leviticus 9:1-11:47

This week we read the portion of Shemini, in which the Mishkan, the Tabernacle for the Almighty, is inaugurated and Aaron the High Priest leads the service for the first time. Our Sages teach that though Aaron had been readying himself for this moment, when the time came he was hesitant and bashful, and did not step forward. Moses had to encourage him and call out to him: Why do you hesitate? This is your moment!

Aaron felt himself unfit for the task, unequal to the formidable charge of serving as High Priest. Yet in fact he had no reason to fear. Moses reassured him: This is your destiny. Get out there and act!

Life is full of such fears, full of those moments when we worry that we’ll never find in ourselves the capacity to get there and mobilize our energies and succeed. And if we aren’t careful we can find ourselves obsessing over needless worries, insecure in our own abilities.

Perhaps we can learn something from the experience of Jessica Baker, who was flying with Air New Zealand and noticed that part of the plane she was flying on was held together by duct tape. She was terrified and she worried so much that she watched it the entire flight, unable to take her eyes off the duct tape holding her plane together. When the flight finally ended she posted photos on social media with the caption, “Kiwi ingenuity at its finest.”

Except that it wasn’t duct tape. An Air New Zealand spokeswoman explained later that the tape was specialist aviation speed tape, an approved material used for airplane maintenance.

Ms. Baker had gone through an entire flight staring at the airplane wing, filled with fear, and all for naught.

We’re all like that too. We invent all sorts of worries, and then we find ourselves unable to step forward and achieve what we might have achieved, all because of the groundless fears that paralyze us. And this is what our Torah reading teaches: We cannot ourselves be locked in by our timidity. We must hear the call that Moses long ago cried out to Aaron: Why do you hesitate? This is your moment!

Rabbi Levi Langer is the dean of the Kollel Jewish Learning Center. This article was provided by the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.