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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Shlach Lecha

Faith And Fitness

Rabbi Stewart WeissSivan 23 5775
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Parshat Shlach may be the most important Sedra in the Torah, for it revolves around the most crucial issue in the Jewish world today: The centrality of Eretz Yisrael. At the same time, it asks us to search our souls & decide: Do we qualify for what Chazal consider to be the most important of all principles: "A Jew shall live by his faith."

The Sedra begins on a puzzling note, sending very mixed signals. On the one hand, Hashem tells Moshe to send out scouts, m’raglim, to scope out the Land of Israel. This would seem to indicate that the decision to conquer Israel had yet to be made. Yet at the same time,
G-d declares quite matter-of-factly, "I am giving this Land to the Children of Israel."

The spies, understandably, are in a quandary: Is the conquest of Israel Divinely ordained, a "slam dunk," (for all you basketball fans out there!), a "done deal," as the pasuk seems to indicate? If so, then what is the point of their reconnoitering? Or is it "up to us;" that is, does it depend on what WE do, are we human beings ultimately the determining factor as to whether we inherit the Land, or not? If so, are we truly up to the task? Can we decide to opt out, if we think we have good enough reasons to do so?

This is the predicament in which the m’raglim – good, righteous and wise men, each & every one of them – find themselves. And, by extension, it is exactly the crisis which confronts every genuinely G-d-fearing, thoughtful Jew alive today: "Can I be absolutely assured that G-d will grant me a successful Aliya, so that I might fulfill what all our Sages agree is one of THE fundamental Mitzvot of the entire Torah?
Or is it dependent upon my own credentials &, if so, do I have what it takes to make the grade?"

It is, in a word, a battle between Faith and Fitness.

Calev & Yehoshua, who are not even the greatest of the princes sent out as scouts, succinctly address both sides of the issue. On the one hand, they qualify G-d’s role and acknowledge the people’s crucial part in the process. They declare: "If Hashem desires us" – meaning, if we truly do deserve it – "then He will bring us to this Land & give it to us." But at the same time, lest the people lose confidence in themselves, they reassure & encourage the nation: "Yachol Nuchal Lah - we can surely do it!"

Life, as we all know, is about choices. Hashem wants it that way, so we do not become robots, & so that we can earn reward for freely deciding to connect to His will. But those choices may be exceedingly excruciating, and may cause us - like the rebellious m'raglim of our Sedra - to doubt ourselves and our noble cause.

So what do we do?! I suggest, for inspiration, that we look both upwards into the Heavens, as well as way down to our gym shoes, for
the essential message is written there: "JUST DO IT!"

Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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