Parashat Sh’lah

Friday, June 8, 2018 /25 Sivan, 5778
Parashat Sh’lah Numbers 13:1-15:41
Dear Friends,
One of the biggest challenges that the Israelites faced during their early years of wandering in the desert was a lack of confidence. They did not believe that they had the fortitude, courage, and strength to make it to the Promised Land. Their lack of confidence and even lack of faith culminated in the devastating report that ten of the twelve scouts shared with Moses, Aaron and the Israelite community upon returning from their reconnaissance mission.
God told Moses to send twelve scouts to go into the Promised Land and report back what they discover. Are the people there few or many? Strong or weak? Are the towns open or fortified? Is the soil rich or poor? (adapted from Numbers 13:17-20). Upon their return the scouts reported accurately, however, they injected doubt, and a lack of confidence into their report. When the rest of the Israelites heard their report, they became scared, weak, and unsure of their ability to conquer the land, even though God had their back. Because this generation was not ready, God made them wander for a total of forty years, until the last adults who had left Egypt had died, and a new generation that was born or matured in the wilderness would be able to conquer the land.
The unknown can result in fear or uncertainty. A lack of confidence or faith can even paralyze us from moving forward. How often have you maintained the status quo by choosing not to take that new job offer, move to a new community, shift a career path in mid-life to find more balance, fulfillment or happiness? How often have you chosen to remain wandering in your own desert wilderness because you were uncertain or afraid?
It is said that it is better to take a risk and fail than to not take a risk at all. The Israelites were not willing to risk battling a people they thought were much more powerful. Too many of us are not willing to take a personal or professional risk, even though it could lead to a Promised Land. When we don’t we may look back with regret upon the road not taken.
The Israelites made a mistake by believing the pessimistic reports of the ten scouts and ignoring the courageous optimism of Caleb and Joshua. My prayer for all of us is that when we are faced with a difficult decision, may we drown out the negativity and pessimism and open our ears to the voices of Joshua and Caleb, and feel confident that despite the potential risk, the potential reward is even greater and that a Promised Land is awaiting us.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Charles K. Briskin