Rabbi Micah Ellenson: The Power of Discomfort

by Rabbi Micah Ellenson
Temple Beth David of Cheshire 

The spiritual growth that is possible this “High Holy Day” season is great. It is an opportunity to reflect upon all the actions—or lack of action—that got us here and to make a plea to create a brighter, better future. If we, as clergy and congregations, work too hard at making the High Holy Days feel “normal,” then we risk losing out on that opportunity to ascend the spiritual barriers of this past year. We need to allow ourselves to get comfortable with the idea of discomfort in order to create spiritually fulfilling Days of Awe. 

Rabbi Abraham Twerski talks about the importance of discomfort on Medium (medium.com/inspired-by-breathesync/ the-rabbi-and-the-lobster-a35efcd227ea):

“As the lobster grows, that shell becomes very confining… the lobster feels itself under pressure and uncomfortable…It goes under a rock formation to protect itself from predatory fish, casts off the shell and produces a new one. 

Well eventually that shell becomes very uncomfortable as it grows… back under the rocks… and the lobster repeats this numerous times.…we have to realize that times of stress are also times that are signals for growth.…if we use adversity properly, we can grow through adversity.” 

If we rush back to a place of normalcy, then we rob ourselves of a chance to grow. The response to adversity should not be how do I return to a more comfortable place, but how do I muster up the strength to live through this so that I might grow. My wish this High Holy Day season is that it does not feel normal. I hope that, in the discomfort of being online or socially distanced for worship, you find the strength and power that comes when you successfully make it through discomfort. When we make it through, much like the lobster, we will grow stronger and be able to live our lives with that newly earned spiritual strength.

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