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Out of Control

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“But some men did not obey Moshe and left some (Manna) over until morning, and it bred worms and became putrid, and Moshe became angry with them…. It came about that on the seventh day, some of the people went out to gather, but they did not find.“ (Exodus 16: 20,27)

I recently went on a ropes course with my family and close friends. Some parts of the course were challenging, requiring both balance and strength. One wears a harness and is always connected to a rope. I arrived at a particular obstacle which requires attaching oneself to a rope about 50 feet up in the air and swinging through a large gap into a cargo net about 50 feet away. The harness does not fit tightly or securely around the body, and the rope remains slack until one takes a leap. I sat at the edge of the platform for quite some time trying to muster up the courage/faith to make the leap. I commented to the instructor that this requires a leap of faith, and he said that they named this obstacle “Leap of Faith”. Eventually, I shut my eyes and jumped, and I survived to tell this tale.

I kept wondering why I found this obstacle to be so daunting and challenging. I was in a harness, attached to a rope, and had no knowledge of anybody falling on this obstacle (an obstacle that required no balance and no strength)! It occurred to me that my apprehension was the fear of being out of control (albeit for a few seconds, but I was about to be in an ‘out of control’ situation). Why did I jump? How did I surrender my control? I somehow convinced myself that despite my lack of control, it was safe. I was faithful to my intellectual knowledge that it was safe, took a leap of faith, and overcame my fear.

The Mitzvot around the Manna were tremendously challenging for many people. Moshe told them not to leave the Manna overnight and that the Manna would not fall on Shabbat. They felt insecure and out of control. A leap of faith was required. Passing this test required relinquishing control and trusting God to provide for them. Some passed this test, others did not.

When one thinks about it deeply, one realizes that while many things seem to be within our control, so much is out of our control. Even the things that we think are in our control are mostly not in our absolute control. How can one ever feel secure in such an ‘out of control’ world? The ‘leap of faith’ challenge on the ropes course was difficult, but I managed to trust the harness and take a leap of faith. I ask myself whether I am truly doing the same in the ‘ropes course’ of life. When matters are clearly out of my control, do I feel that I may randomly plummet or do I trust God to be my support and harness?

Friends, this is the challenge of the Manna, this is the challenge of being out of control, and this is indeed life’s challenge!