Every Parasha is as meaningful as the entire Torah
That’s why the Sages passed down the message to us that ‘Torah truly is Eternal’
D’var Torah for Parshat Sh’lach L’Cha
My Torah portion this morning is Sh’lach L’cha, which contains the story of Moses sending spies to the land of Canaan to find out about the land and its inhabitants.
The power of recognition is a fascinating feature of our minds. One of our great problems in life is the fact that we often do not recognize the world around us for what it really is. For many reasons we allow ourselves to be deceived; in fact, it might be incredibly difficult to see things in a clear way. Then, sometimes, we suddenly recognize the truth. Immediately everything looks different.
This week’s Torah reading provides an example. At this point, the Jewish people were poised to enter the Promised Land. They had gone through a wonderful series of events. They had seen the miraculous destruction of the power of Egypt and had experienced the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. These were phenomenal events which the world has never forgotten. Their goal, as they had been told by Moses long before, was to enter the Promised Land. They would fulfill the promise which G‑d gave to their ancestor Abraham: to make Israel into a Jewish spiritual center for the whole world,
Modern-day Psychology agrees that the basic flaw preventing us from reaching our true potential, crossing new vistas, surmounting life’s hurdles, utilizing opportunity, is an insufficient sense of self-belief brought on by a lack of recognition of our true abilities . Effectiveness in life, we are informed, is predicated on believing in oneself, and then actually getting out there and doing what we need to do.
And that’s where the spies fell down on the job: a lack of recognition of what God promised them and the confidence to know that G-d’s word was true.
Almost every Biblical analyst comments that the spies’ lack of self-confidence is readily apparent. Obviously their own low self-esteem led the spies to have an equally poor estimation of the Jews’ ability, even though God would lead them and they witnessed incredible miracles almost daily. When we act strong, with an expectation of success, others tend to be awed by our aura, and victory is inevitable. Conversely, when we talk small, and walk small, conscious of our (perceived or real) immaturity and incompetence, then other’s opinions automatically agree with our expectations.
In democracies as well as in Jewish Law, majority rules. A Beth Din or court of Torah law must always consist of an odd number of judges so that there should always be a majority opinion.
But the fact is, sometimes the majority gets it wrong.
The story in this week’s Torah reading story of the twelve spies sent by Moses to the Promised Land is a case in point.
Only two of the dozen, Joshua and Caleb, remained faithful to their leader, to the purpose of their mission and to G-d’s assurance that it was a good land. The other ten spies went awry.
The Spies were sent on a reconnaissance mission to determine how best to approach the coming conquest of the land of Canaan. Instead of doing what they were sent to do — to suggest the best way forward — ten of the twelve spies brought back a negative report that was designed to intimidate the people and discourage them from entering a ferocious, “land that devours its inhabitants,” and then signed off with the categorical conclusion that ” our enemies are too strong and we’ll never make it into the promised land alive”.
The people responded accordingly. They cried out to Moses, upset about their very departure from Egypt. So G-d decreed that this generation was not worthy of His precious Promised Land.
Now, the question I’d like to pose here is why did the people not follow the two good spies, Joshua and Caleb, instead of the others? The obvious answer: they were outvoted and outnumbered. 10 vs. 2 — no contest. Majority rules.
Tragically, though, they backed the losers. And as a result G-d sent them on an all expenses paid 40 year vacation in the desert.
So, although we may be staunch believers in the democratic process, clearly, there will be times when the minority is right.
All too often, the values and judgment calls of “The World” are simply wrong. No matter how outnumbered the Jews may be, we must continue to follow the paths of decency and sanity.
We Jews have never played the numbers game. We have always been the smallest of nations. We are not known for our majority but for our morals.
All too often these days when the subject is Israel or the Jews, it is the world that is stark, raving meshugga, completely out of control and It takes substantial strength of character to resist the pull of the majority
Everything has a purpose in creation. There is nothing superfluous in G-d’s world. G-d made us his chosen people. So why are there so many people in the world that dislike the Jews? Just that–to remind Jews that they are Jewish!
But why wait for the Israel bashers and anti Semites of this world to remind us? Do we want or need their taunting? Rather, let us be positively Jewish and Jewishly positive. .There are a million good, positive reasons, to be a proud Jew. If sixty years ago being Jewish carried a death sentence, today it is a life sentence, promising a meaningful and blessed life. And when we decide to live proud, committed Jewish lives, we make a fascinating discovery: when we get rid of our self doubt and respect ourselves, the world respects us too. And that applies to everyone, from the individual Jew to the collective Jewish community.
Judaism is a boon, not a burden. We should always be proud of our heritage. It is a badge of honor to wear with noble pride. May G-d aid us to be men and women of stature and of spirit. May we be inspired with the courage to stand up and be counted, even if it means being that lone voice in the wilderness. Otherwise, we may never get to our destination.