Change and fear go together like a horse and carriage

By Daniel Chejfec

If there are two words which come always together, those are “change” and “fear”. I do remember the day I left Buenos Aires for the States as it was yesterday. It was one of the defining moments of my life...full with excitement, expectation...and fear.


As the escalator took me up and I looked back at my parents, my eyes got blurry and those tears were part the sadness of parting and part fear. What awaited me when I arrived in the States? Will I be able to adjust? Will I make it? Am I doing the right thing? All these questions and more crossed my mind as the escalator took me to where a new stage in my life was about to begin.


Being afraid of the unknown, being afraid of change, is only natural. As we live our lives we internalize the rules of the game to the point we don't even think about them anymore; they are just there. But change affects those rules in ways which are many times unpredictable, so our fear is a natural response to the changed conditions which forces us to question ourselves, our actions, other people's reactions and so much more...


Take personal changes: puberty, adolescence, college, graduation from college. At each of these points we were all afraid of what was to come because it was the unknown, and we were embarking on a new journey full of new rules to be learned...same, of course, is true for marriage, parenthood, etc


Equal rights for Black in the South scared those who grew up on the assumption they would always be on top and saw African Americans as inferior. At the end of the Civil War, Blacks were exhilarated at Freedom, but also afraid...what did it mean to be free?


In Israel, the idea of a Two State solution scares both sides. Israelis, because a Palestinian State is an unknown – but the track record of all similar initiatives in the past (such as Gaza) tells them that there is a very good chance of becoming a target. Palestinians are afraid because now they know the rules – but how will they fit in the new scheme? Will they be able to work and feed their families? Will they be able to live in safety? Most Palestinians in the West bank grew up in a world where Israel controlled Security and where the best jobs were on “the other side”...


Change in our community is also bringing up fear. What will the building at 110 S Grand be? How will the new organization (whatever it will be) interface and interact with the rest of the organized Jewish community? What effect will it have on the support for other organizations or their ability to capture new members?


But change is coming, be that as it may. Two pieces of Jewish wisdom pop up in my mind regarding the change induced fear...the first one is from Pirkey Avot: “Mi Hu Givor? HaKovesh et Yitzro!” (Who is strong? The one who controls his passions!”. The second one is attributed to an XVIII Century Rabbi and it is also a popular Hebrew song in Israel, and also in liturgy:


Kol HaOlam Kulo Gesher Tzar Meod, VeYikar Ze Lo Lefached”


(The World is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to give up to fear)


Let us all look to the future not without fear, but with the confidence that we can control that fear and make it into a positive force...


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