Don’t Be Afraid to J-U-M-P!

I had the Passover week off from my MASA program, and as I have minimal family in Israel, I started looked for a meaningful Passover experience in a community. When I found Livnot  – a week of hiking, volunteering, and learning located in the mystical city of Tzfat, I wondered if I had found exactly what I had been looking for. Although I am not an expert hiker, I hoped that the other two out of three fit me nicely.  I was not disappointed.

Day-two of our week we went to Tiberias.  After touring the city and visiting the grave sites of the Rambam and Rabbi Akiva, we had free time.  We decided to rent a small boat, and after a very extensive and Jewish discussion of how many of us would actually go and in which boats, we left the dock.  I went with two of our Bat Sherut, Temima and Yonina, as well as a fellow chevre.

It was a beautiful day, and as we got into the middle of the sparkling blue water of the Kinneret, Temima decided this was the perfect moment to… to… to jump out of the boat!  Splashing into the water, she swam around laughing. “Come join me,” she waved!  Next into the water is Yonina. As I looked at our two Bat Sherut singing and laughing, I took off my backpack and I..,J-U-M-P!  The water feels amazing!  We feel the sun shining down on us, and we are floating in the Galilee.  We are living in the present. Three of us are swimming around and loving the beauty of the moment.  How often to people get to say this?

Later on this week, while hiking with my group, we were singing “Kol Haolam kulo. Gesher Tsar me’od….” (“the whole entire world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing to recall is to have no fear at all”).  As I hiked with Avital, our third amazing Bat Sherut, she told me that when Rabbi Nachman had written these words instead of using L’Pached (“to be afraid”) he actually said don’t lehitpached – which is the reflexive form of this verb, meaning, do not “make yourself afraid.” Fear is a normal emotion and sometimes we will be afraid; fear is a part of life.  But the point is not to make yourself afraid to the point that you might miss out. J-U-M-P.

 One of the best parts of my week in Livnot is that every single participant stepped out of their comfort zones over the course of this week. If they were like me, this involved hiking.  For others this involved sitting in on a class about Judaism and being brave enough to ask difficult questions, staying up until almost three in the morning experiencing a traditional Jewish Seder for the first time… dressing up in a giant frog costume to be one of the 10 plagues. The list goes on and on. This week we all J-U-M-P-E-D, and we felt it was o.k. to make mistakes, to not always be graceful or perfect, such as when we hiked up a rather large hill off the path, and I needed to sit on my butt to go most of the way back down.  Or, when someone didn’t know the words to a song but joined in with the most beautiful ‘lai lai lays…”  We knew that we had each other, our coordinators, the Bat Sherut– all to help drag us back into the boat, to keep us company, to talk with me as I slid down the hill, to show me where to step and where it was too slippery, to teach each other the words of songs.

It’s always easier to not jump, and there have been many times when I don’t J-U-M-P.  Of course there were logical reasons to stay on the boat.  But, if we hadn’t J-U-M-P-E-D this week, we would have never come to Tzfat, held a seder till almost sunrise, formed a new community, sang at the top of our lungs, hiked to new heights, jumped out of the boat, lived in the moment.

I hope I remember to J-U-M-P when the occasion next presents itself. I invite you to J-U-M-P, too.