Standing on the Precipice
By Rafi Cashman is a Davidson Scholar beginning a PhD in Education at the University of Toronto in the fall. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Next to the mass grave of Tikochin in Poland, I told a story to the student-participants of the March of the Living, for whom I was the rabbi, where I tried to inspire them to reflect on the possibilities and opportunities life made available to them. That evening a young woman asked if we could speak privately. Crying, she began by telling me that the story I told had a profound effect on her; it had challenged her to think about her personal struggles, the nature of her religious choices, and what she felt was her inadequacy in confronting both. I tried to listen carefully and reflect these words back to her so they would gain perspective and clarity, but the whole time all I could think was, “Did I really think I could do this part of the job? Am I in over my head?” I left that conversation having come to the brink of what I felt could take responsibility for, possibly falling over the edge of the precipice, full of fear that I had overstepped my boundaries by letting her trust me.
The next morning she walked into breakfast full of laughter and lightness. I asked how she was and she responded, “I felt so much better after our conversation! Thank you soooo much!” Needless to say, I was relieved, but what was most clear to me was that to lead is to be conscious of the fear of failure, yet be willing to take that measured risk.