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Spare some change

What’s more difficult, creating something from scratch or to make changes to something that already exists?

On the surface perhaps, creating something new can seem more challenging since you don’t know anything about this new project and you’re going at it blindly. But digging a bit deeper into the reality of life, changing the way we do things and approaching the same tasks differently can pose a greater challenge.

Learning to ride a bike, for example, is difficult. But once you figure out how to maintain your balance and stay upright, you won’t remember ever not being able to ride one; it becomes part of your being. Now imagine, after being an expert cyclist for years, you attempt to ride a unicycle. So long as you try to apply the rules and techniques of riding a two-wheeler to riding an apparatus with only one wheel, you will fail. Change is difficult because it always comes with preconceptions and muscle memory; the only way to be able to move on to something new is by recognizing that it is just that — something new.

Starting a new job is difficult because you have no prior experience and all new beginnings can be bumpy. It’s a challenge but it is almost always a surmountable one, where with enough perseverance and commitment you can see things through and become good at that particular occupation.

Conversely, changing the way you’ve been doing your current job — where say your boss decides that things have to be done differently from now on — is a challenge on a completely different scale. Being used to doing something a certain way only to be expected to start doing it differently is more than just a challenge, many would consider it impossible.

Change is so difficult in fact, that even G-d Himself acknowledges this reality. G-d, who created heaven and earth in six days, states in the opening verse of the Ten Commandments that His greatest accomplishment, so to speak, is having just redeemed the Jewish nation from Egyptian slavery. Not creating the universe, not creating man and every living creature, but taking a nation out of bondage. Sure, the exodus was a tremendous accomplishment, but greater than creation itself?

But yes, G-d reminds us that change is more challenging than creation. With creation, there are no preconceptions and thus the challenges are limited to how creative you can be. Change, on the other hand, like taking a nation that had slave mentality seeped into their psyche and were so close to being unredeemable, and making them free — that’s where G-d’s ultimate power is expressed.

At the same time, G-d wasn’t just informing us of how difficult redeeming the Jews from Egypt was; G-d is not a complainer and He definitely didn’t need to show off His capabilities — “Look what I can do!” Rather, by starting off the Ten Commandments describing the greatest divine achievement to date, G-d also passed that capacity on to us. He shared with us the ability to change, as difficult as it may be and as challenging and obstacle prone the path to change is.

And just like G-d made change an option for mankind by sharing this divine quality with us, He also shared with us the ability to help others change. So as our ancestors, along with the souls of every Jew from all times, were standing at Mt. Sinai prepared to receive the Torah, they had to be reminded of this vital component to becoming a new nation: Together, as one people looking out for each other, we can overcome anything, even preconceived notions.

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