We all get afraid at times, but we don’t have to let our fear get the best of us. In this week’s Torah portion (14:10-14) the people become very afraid when Pharaoh and his brutal army chase after them. But Moses calms them down, telling them to try their best not to fear and, with God’s help, things would be okay. Even if we can’t be fearless, by looking at things the right way, we can come to -- fear ‘less.’
In our story, a kid faces up to facing fears.
BRIDGING THE GAP
“Aren’t you glad you came, after all?” Jamie smiled at Tina. Jamie had spent an hour on the phone the night before, convincing her friend that she should come along on the class wilderness trip—a scenic hike through a nearby state park.
“I guess so,” Tina said, as they walked along the hilly trail. “I’m really not so ‘out-doorsy’, you know? It’s kinda scary to be ‘out of civilization’, and anything higher than an anthill makes me dizzy. But I have to admit it is really pretty here.”
And so, despite the nippy weather, Tina, slowly warmed up to the trip. That is, until the announcement, that made her shiver in her hiking boots…
“Okay, gang,” the hike leader called out, “now for the highlight of our hike—the twin peak rope suspension bridge.”
The kids turned the corner of the trail to see that the hill they were hiking had reached its peak. There was a valley below them and across the valley was another hill. None of this bothered Tina. But what did bother her, terrify, petrify and scare the wits out of her, was the thin, flimsy-looking rope bridge that led from one peak to the next.
“W-we’re not supposed to w-walk on that, are we?” she blurted out.
“Well, unless you know how to fly,” the hike leader winked. “Okay, who’s first? It’s a hundred percent safe!” the hike leader assured them. “It looks flimsy, but it could hold an elephant.”
The excited kids lined up and one-by-one, happily bounced across the bridge to the other side.
“What am I gonna do?” Tina, white as the snow patches lining the trail, said to Jamie as the two of them hung back from the line. “There’s no way in the world I can walk across that thing!”
“Okay, you’re the last two,” the hike leader interrupted. “I can tell you’re pretty scared. If it’s too much for you, one of the guides can escort you back down the trail to the bus to wait. But it’ll have to be both of you or none. Park rules—no hikers alone."
“I’ll go with you,” Jamie said. “I can see how scared you are.”
“But that’s not fair to you!” Tina answered. “You’ve been looking forward to this hike for months.”
“I know. But, as far as I can see, there’s really only one other choice.”
Tina nodded. “But how can I do it? I’m so scared.”
“I think that might be part of the problem,” Jamie said.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s your scared-ness that’s making it seem so hard. Really, if you just try to calm down, I think you could do it just fine.”
“First of all, you know this trail, including the bridge is safe. If it wasn’t, the school would never have taken us here and the forest service would never have let us hike it either.” Tina nodded as Jamie went on. “Also, you can see with your own eyes how all the kids—some much heavier than you—are getting across just fine.”
“I can hear that,” Tina said. “But I just don’t see how I can do it alone.”
“That part’s no problem,” Jamie smiled. “You don’t have to.”
“But the bridge is only wide enough for one at a time,” Tina protested. “You can’t come with me.”
“Who said anything about me?”
“I meant God, silly. He’s everywhere, right?”
“That means He’s with you as you go across the bridge, too. You can even imagine Him holding you up by a special support-rope from the sky as you walk across.”
Tina thought about her friend’s words. She took a deep breath and took hold of the bridge’s handrails. Slowly, she moved one foot in front of the other and held tightly to the rails. Though every time the bridge swayed her stomach swayed with it, it really wasn’t nearly as bad as she’d imagined.
“Yay!!!” Twenty-five voice cheered as Tina stepped foot on the other side.
“You did it!” Jamie said, with a big handshake and an even bigger grin.
“Not me—we,” Tina smiled, “I never let go of that rope from Above even for a second!”
Q. How did Tina feel at first about crossing the bridge?
A. She was scared and didn’t think she could do it.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She saw that even though she was afraid, she could do it.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Tina learned that day?
A. She had to face a situation that scared her very much and thought there was no way to overcome her fear. But, by looking at things in a calmer way and trusting in G-d’s help, she succeeded.
Q. Why do you think that remembering that G-d was with her helped her to have more courage?
A. G-d is everywhere, loving and all-powerful. If we remember that He’s always by our side, helping us we can gain a tremendous amount of courage and will feel many of our fears melt away.
Ages ten and up
Q. Do you think it is possible to never be afraid?
A. Even the bravest person will experience at least some amount of fear, but we can certainly do much to control the extent of our fears and function better even when afraid.
Q. What do you think might be the relationship between fear and faith?
A. Faith, from the Jewish perspective, means realizing that life’s events aren’t random. Rather every situation we encounter and even the tools we have to cope with it, are given to us by G-d as a means to grow spiritually for our own eternal benefit. Fears arise, when we feel that we are at the mercy of others or some random uncaring force, but a person with faith knows securely in their heart that since G-d is here—there is nothing else to fear.