Parashat Sh’lach, Numbers 13:1-15:41 – Parashat ha Shavuah for Saturday, June 5, 2021

If this year has taught us anything, it is that life is unpredictable. When we open our eyes and see life as it is we understand that it is about change and adaptation. As much as we may crave stability we know that is an illusion. 

In this week’s Torah portion the Israelites are at a moment of change as they stand on the edge of the Land of Israel. God commands Moses to send 12 scouts to explore the land, to see what it is like and what it will take to conquer and settle it. 

After 40 days they return and they report that land is good, “We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey,” (Numbers 13:27) But ten of them add a note of fear: “the people who inhabit the country are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large;” and then, they add this, “we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” 

What a phrase, how it expresses their lack of self-confidence. They can’t see their strength, only their insufficiencies. Except for two of the scouts, Joshua and Calev, who say, “Have no fear then of the people of the country, for they are our prey” 

What enabled them to maintain their courage when others lost theirs? In midrash from the Talmud, Raba says, “‘Caleb separated himself from the the spies, went to Hebron, prostrated himself upon the graves of the Patriarchs.’”  In other words, Calev drew on his Jewish tradition, the wisdom of his ancestors, so when the moment of challenge came, the moment of change, he had the strength to face it when others did not. 

Our Jewish tradition is there for all of us. Whether we are religious or not, it can give us guidance when we need it most. 


~Rabbi Dean Kertesz