Get Out – Jeremy Sofiev Lone Soldier IDF Preparation
Oftentimes in life, many of us live in a so-called “bubble”; a small area of familiar experiences and habits that we feel safe and at ease in. This “bubble” is also known as a person’s comfort zone. I contend that a person who lives their life inside of their comfort zone has not really lived at all. In fact, there is a famous quote that claims “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” As a religious Jew I believe that not only is it commendable to constantly be leaving our comfort zones, but it is a central theme carried throughout our entire Torah which sets us an example on how to lead our lives.
Let’s take a look at our founding father of Judaism, the man who started it all, Avraham Avinu. Avraham serves us as the ultimate example of a person who left their comfort zone and benefitted incalculable amounts from it. The famous pasuk in parshat Lech Lecha illustrates just how drastic a step Avraham made out of his comfort zone:
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה’ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃ וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה׃ וַאֲבָֽרְכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃
God said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you And curse the one who curses you; And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Bereshit 12:1-3)
Avraham was instructed by God to leave all that he knows behind and go to an unknown place that He will show him. That’s it. No other instructions, no details, no questions, just get up and go. This is one of the most admirable things that we can model our own lives after. In this one pasuk we can see both the action and consequence of leaving your comfort zone. No doubt that there may be uncertain, sometimes unpleasant experiences along the way, but look at the outcome! God promised Avraham the eternal success and blessing of himself and his descendants. Although Avraham had to take the risk of leaving his family and his home behind, he grew infinitely more from taking that one step outside of his comfort zone.
This theme continues with the only man in our Torah with an open line to God himself, Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe is another prime example of a person who completely stepped outside of what he was used to doing in life and reached levels that are, and always will be, unmatched. As a child prince turned fugitive shepard with a speech impediment, Moshe initially had neither the confidence nor the courage to stand up to the Pharaoh of Egypt and lead his nation out of their midst. Yet, in his conversation with God in parshat Shemot, Moshe was convinced to leave his insecurities behind and step out of his comfort zone.
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֣ה אֶל־ה’ בִּ֣י אֲדֹנָי֒ לֹא֩ אִ֨ישׁ דְּבָרִ֜ים אָנֹ֗כִי גַּ֤ם מִתְּמוֹל֙ גַּ֣ם מִשִּׁלְשֹׁ֔ם גַּ֛ם מֵאָ֥ז דַּבֶּרְךָ֖ אֶל־עַבְדֶּ֑ךָ כִּ֧י כְבַד־פֶּ֛ה וּכְבַ֥ד לָשׁ֖וֹן אָנֹֽכִי׃ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר ה’ אֵלָ֗יו מִ֣י שָׂ֣ם פֶּה֮ לָֽאָדָם֒ א֚וֹ מִֽי־יָשׂ֣וּם אִלֵּ֔ם א֣וֹ חֵרֵ֔שׁ א֥וֹ פִקֵּ֖חַ א֣וֹ עִוֵּ֑ר הֲלֹ֥א אָנֹכִ֖י ה’׃ וְעַתָּ֖ה לֵ֑ךְ וְאָנֹכִי֙ אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִם־פִּ֔יךָ וְהוֹרֵיתִ֖יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּדַבֵּֽר׃
But Moses said to God, “Please, O my lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
And God said to him, “Who gives humans speech? Who makes them dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, God? Now go, and I will be with you as you speak and will instruct you what to say.” (Shemot 4:10-12)
Regardless of his weaknesses and so-thought inabilities, God told Moshe it is nobody but him who controls what happens in this world. The clarification of this fact and realization of this belief gave Moshe the bravery to exit his comfort zone and confront Pharaoh and demand he let the Jewish nation go, and the rest is history.
We have seen examples of individuals coming out of their comfort zone, but let’s look at a mass exit of a nation’s comfort zone. After a two-hundred and ten year enslavement in Egypt, although the backbreaking work and horrific treatment the Jews endured, Am Yisrael found themselves in a comfort zone in Egypt that can be explained by the idea of “slave mentality”. The Israelites were used to living as slaves. They were provided with food so that they could work, their lives were regimented to the minute and they were always told what to do. Essentially, they did not have to think or act for themselves. The mind of the slave is limited to narrow horizons of immediate material fulfillment. A slave does not have the luxury of planning the future; his role is simply to survive the present. As a result, despite the terrible conditions of Egyptian slavery, Am Yisrael saw Egypt as a protective secure environment, in other words, a comfort zone. This is the reason why in parshat Beshalach, the diction used to describe Am Yisrael leaving Egypt is not voluntary, but rather forceful:
וַיַּסַּ֨ע מֹשֶׁ֤ה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ מִיַּם־ס֔וּף וַיֵּצְא֖וּ אֶל־מִדְבַּר־שׁ֑וּר וַיֵּלְכ֧וּ שְׁלֹֽשֶׁת־יָמִ֛ים בַּמִּדְבָּ֖ר וְלֹא־מָ֥צְאוּ מָֽיִם׃
Then Moses caused Israel to set out from the Sea of Reeds. They went on into the wilderness of Shur; they traveled three days in the wilderness and found no water. (Shemot 15:22)
The pasuk says that Moshe caused Am Yisrael to cross the sea, implying that it was not their will to do so, but rather a command in which they did not have a choice. The Jews preferred to stay in Egypt as slaves because of fear that there wouldn’t be any food or water in the desert. By this understanding we see that the Israelites were forced out of their comfort zone, into the desert, where they received the Torah, ate the mann, built the Mishkan, had the presence of God dwell among them, and became a nation. Essentially what we see in this example, is that regardless of the style in which you abandon your comfort zone, good things are bound to come out of it. Whether it’s a blind leap of faith as Avraham displayed, a matter of persuasion as we saw with Moshe, or circumstance of force that was witnessed with Am Yisrael, each time God made their lives infinitely better and allowed them to grow in ways unimaginable had they not left their bubble.
I know what you might be thinking: In all the examples I gave, God is speaking and intervening directly with certain people and explicitly telling them to do things that will make them step out of their comfort zone. One might think: God is not telling me to leave my comfort zone… Well, I’m here to tell you that he is!!! That’s the whole point of these lessons that we see throughout the Torah. God wants us to look at these marvelous examples of those who left their comfort zones behind and grew immensely from it. I only brought three examples that I thought were the most prevalent to use as proof, but in reality, the Torah is absolutely filled to the brim with characters that are constantly uncomfortable. Think of Noach, David, Yermiyahu, Ruth, and Esther just to name a few. All of these biblical characters took massive leaps outside of their comfort zones for the betterment of the people around them and as a result gained massive merits from God as a reward. God wants you to do what makes you uncomfortable because what is uncomfortable makes you better. As soon as you step outside of your comfort zone you are faced with challenges and dilemmas that make your life interesting. In the face of these new obstacles, you may be forced to change something about yourself that needs improvement. This is when you really start living life and becoming as close to God as possible since your flaws are being exposed and are now being refined into better middot. None of this can happen if you are content with your current lifestyle. If you are comfortable you will see no reason to change because things are good the way they are, so why change anything? If we constantly strive to put ourselves in a situation where we are uncomfortable we will always see the areas in which we need improvement and act on them. Put it short, get out of your comfort zone and your life will change for the better.
Looking back on my year at Keshet Yehudah, I can confidently say that I took the lesson that the Torah teaches and left my comfort zone at every step of the way. Before coming to Keshet, I was a New York City kid who’s never even been on a hike. Now, a three day tiyul to the Hermon sounds like a blast. I went from barely knowing Hebrew and Israeli culture to some of my closest friends being Israelis and even doing full chevrutot in Hebrew. My point of view changed from just living in the middle of nowhere when all my friends are in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, to actually appreciating the beauty and distraction-less environment of Ramat Hagolan. Most importantly, I arrived in Israel as a modern orthodox Jew from America that had a lot of doubts and didn’t feel connected to religion, to baruch HaShem now, a person who sees the truth and beauty in leading a Jewish life and taking the necessary steps to grow in religion. Stepping out of my comfort zone and embarking on a journey of unpredictable events this year has made me a better person and I will forever be glad I did it. If I were to tell you that this past year at Keshet was comfortable, I would be lying, however, I wouldn’t rather it be any other way, because when one is comfortable, he has no reason to grow. Therefore, my message to all those who read this… GET OUT.