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A 'Feel the Fear' Story

Life is beautiful!

My ''Feel the Fear'' Story:

Every Friday night in synagogue members get a chance to speak for a couple of minutes in between the first and second prayer of the evening . For as long as I can remember I have had a fear of public speaking and this was my chance to go and face that fear. I was half way through the book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and I took a deep breath and decided ''enough!'' Enough of running from my fears and from myself; this is my chance to work through my fear. So here is the speech I gave:

Six years ago I was getting close to graduation from high school, which was the time to take all sorts of tests for different subjects. One of those was spoken English. We were placed in pairs, and I ended up with the one boy in the class that I didn’t particularly like. We had about a week to complete the assignment, which involved speaking in front of a group of people on the subject of our choice. There is one thing that I fear more than anything in this world and that is .... public speaking! So you can imagine my struggle when I knew I had to prepare a speech for week’s time that would determine my grades.

Seeing that I didn’t like my partner much, a series of text messages began to be exchanged ending In some really unpleasant things being said from both sides. To cut a long story short, I ended up being suspended for a week... and thereby missing the day of the spoken English assignment.

Looking back now I realise that I had played out the entire scenario just so that I wouldn’t have to speak in public. I paired up with a boy I didn’t particularly like so that gave me an excuse to create greater tension between the two of us which led to my eventual suspension, and that translated into missing the spoken English exam! Thinking back it’s amazing the lengths I went to just to avoid five minutes of public speaking!

So what does my fear of speaking have to do with this week’s sedra, the weekly reading from the Torah? I have always wondered how it is possible for a man to go and offer up his only son, after being promised by G-D that his child would continue the lineage and eventually become a great nation. It is only this week that G-D placed an idea into my head that clearly explains how someone is able to offer up their only child after being promised their child would build a great nation.

Abraham Avinu understood and internalised the idea that he was living for something greater than himself. He understood that if he did not complete the test with all his energy, that not only would it affect him, but it would affect generations to come. Abraham Avinu lived with the reality that every action, thought and word would affect not only himself but future generations, and when we are concerned with something that is bigger than ourselves our fears are greatly diminished.

It is because of our forefathers that through every generation we as a people and individuals have been able to come out of the most horrific times such as the holocaust and within 70 years build and up our homeland, Israel, and achieve and create more things than the entire world could even dream of in a thousand years!

All this is possible now because of Abraham Avinu, who is the fearless warrior that pushed his boundaries further and further throughout his entire life and never settled for being comfortable. This is because he understood that it isn’t just about 'me', yes 'me' is important, but he understood that his actions would affect generations to come. So when G-D commands him to offer up his only son, not only does he not complain, he wakes up early in the morning and saddles his own donkey!

So when I think to myself, should I speak on Friday night? I hate public speaking! Somewhere inside of me I have a small understanding that refusing to speak out of fear is not only going to affect me negatively but it will affect my family and friends, then my wife and kids and on and on the chain goes....

So here I am, standing before you, breaking the cycle, having made my first small steps towards becoming a happier more confident version of myself. After six years of running away from my fear of public speaking so I can finally say that I have just crossed the starting line and begun my journey to a place where one day I may speak in front of hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people and inspire them to change for the better.

So my blessing to us all is that we find that one thing in our lives that we have been running from, and feel the fear and do it anyway! And that that we may continue to grow and grow until we are like an overflowing well and we slowly begin to become a beacon of light for everyone to see and learn from.

After I finished speaking in front of about 40 people, I got a round of applause (which never happens) and after prayers people stood in line to shake my hand and told me that is was the best speech they've heard and how much it made them think about their fears! One member who I barely know said he was so impressed by my speech and by my approach to life that he would invest his money in any business that I open in the future!!

Imagine if I would've said no to that opportunity to speak!

So feel the fear and do it anyway!

Thank you, Susan Jeffers.

Raf, Manchester, England