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Shelach-Lecha 5783

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Rabbi Geier


BSD || Rabbi Geier

Shelach-Lecha 5783

Parashat Shlach Lecha is the portion in which Moses sends spies, at the request of the Lord, to Canaan to investigate whether it was a conquerable land.

Remember that ten of the spies said no, that it was a land of giants and that they would be seen as insects, so they returned frightened. But there were two of the meraglim, the spies, who had a very different vision. Caleb ben Iefune and Joshua ben Nun conveyed to Moses and the people that it was indeed possible to conquer them, with the help of the Kadosh Baruch Hu and with the commitment of the entire people of Israel. Because of this positive vision, despite opposing the opinion of the rest of the group, these two were the only ones from that generation who entered the Promised Land.

The question that always lingers in the air is how can it be that two people from a group of twelve had such a different vision of the same situation. Perhaps the question is different: why did the ten doubt so much? Those ten were not just anyone. Those ten were leaders, they were courageous people, they were trained individuals. They were heads of tribes. So, in reality, what happened to these people? A year earlier, they had witnessed and experienced all the wonders and miracles of the Lord in Egypt and during the exodus from Egypt. What happened to them?

Menachem Schneerson, the late Rebbe of Lubavitch, once said that it wasn't actually about not seeing what was happening, not seeing reality, but rather they were afraid of success. They were not afraid of failure, but afraid of success. Deep down, they knew they could win the upcoming battle with God's help, but if they were to enter the Land and settle, they would have to become independent from the Kadosh Baruch Hu. They feared that He would no longer watch over them as He had done until that point. They would no longer see the Pillar of Cloud, the Amud HaAnan, guiding them daily, nor the Pillar of Fire at night. They would no longer be accompanied by the spontaneously flowing water from the presence of Miriam, nor would the manna fall from heaven.

All of this gave them a closeness to God that, according to Rebbe Shneerson, they didn't want to lose. According to him, they had a dvekut, an attachment to Him that they didn't want to lose upon entering Israel.

The Rebbe is too kind to the people of Israel. I'm going to be a little harsher. In my opinion, it had nothing to do with fear of success or failure. It had more to do with fear of commitment. It had to do with that laziness, that apathy that comes from finding ourselves or getting used to a situation of supposed well-being. We are fine, we are comfortable in the desert.

This situation has been repeated many times with peoples who get used to their bad rulers or with citizens who get used to situations of corruption, violence, or injustice. We often take habit as convenient reality.

For the people of Israel, it meant having a father–God–who would guide them day by day. It was easy to surrender to that father. What will happen afterwards, when we enter Canaan? We must accept that we have to take charge of our lives and the world. The world will depend on us. That world will depend on us making the day-to-day not only about work but also about justice, organizing ourselves, being good people, and evaluating how much we want to be close to the Kadosh Baruch Hu and sustain that bond with Him.

That's what we did as a people when we entered Canaan. We chose to be close, to choose the devekut, the attachment. We chose every day to have a better world. We chose every day to build it, to take responsibility, and to take upon ourselves the work we have to do. That is the proposal of Shlach Lecha. To see things as they are and to take responsibility to make this world, ourselves, our community, our environment, our society. Let go of the laziness and apathy of saying, "I've come this far, this is as much as I can do," and try something more, something better.

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