How we see our world and what is going on depends on our point of view. Are we in a time of great potential change, or a time of chaos? Is the issue before us one of a few bad police officers who need to be weeded out, or a policing system that is fundamentally violent and racist? Should the whole system be torn down or can it be reformed and changed?
How you view this most recent outbreak of police violence and the demonstrations and demands for change that it has sparked depends on where you are coming from. In this week’s Torah portion, Moses sends 12 scouts (one from each tribe) into the Land of Canaan to explore it and bring back intelligence on what lies ahead. On their return, 10 of the scouts report, “We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” (Numbers 13:27) and a few verses later they continue, “We cannot attack that people, for it is stronger than we… and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 12:31 and 32)
Commenting on this verse in the Talmud, “Rav Mesharshiyya says: The spies were liars. Granted, to say: “We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes,” is well, but to say: “And so were we in their eyes,” from where could they have known this?” (Sotah 35a)
The lesson of our sages is that it is one thing to have self doubt. But it is another thing altogether to assume that our own doubts are real.
This self-doubt projected outward led to a lack of faith and will among the Israelites and their failure to go up and conquer the land. For this, they are condemned to 40 years of wandering in the desert.
How will we see this moment? Will we see it as an opportunity for great change or will we think the problems as too great? Will we consider ourselves grasshoppers and lose our faith or will we have the faith that we can make a difference?