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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Shlach Lecha

Scouts' Honor

Rabbi Stewart WeissSivan 17 5779
31
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Shelach-Lecha is one of the seminal parshiot in all the Torah. It represents, sadly, the "wrong turn" we took in history when – poised to ascend to Eretz Yisrael – we instead balked at entering the Holy Land. As a result, an entire generation would be doomed to die in the desert, & our national aspirations were put on hold for 40 years.

But is there any positive way to view this Sedra? Is it relevant to today’s Jewish People? Surely it must be!

Looking at the instructions Moshe gave to the scouts, we might imagine he is talking to us, right here & now, asking us to take a critical look at Israel, to "r’item et ha-aretz, mah hee" – to recognize the Land for what it is:

"Hechazak hu, harafeh? Is the nation strong, or weak?" Can anyone deny that Israel is a strong country? Is our army not among the finest – perhaps the finest, soldier for soldier – in the entire world? What other country, under constant threat, surrounded by hostile forces within & without, goes about its daily life unimpeded & secure?

"Ha’m’at hu, im rav? Is the land few, or numerous?" In the last two generations, Israel’s population has sky-rocketed 1200%, while virtually every other Jewish community in the world has shrunk. We have the highest per-capita number of multiple births & although our life-expectancy is expanding, we are actually getting younger every year!

"U-ma ha-aretz? Tova, im ra’ah, sh’mena im raza? – is the land good or bad, is it fat or lean?" As you drive the length & breadth of Israel, you see the fields of grain, the flowers blooming, the crops overflowing. By brilliantly solving our water issues, we have turned the barren desert into a green paradise. We can grow virtually anything, anywhere, anytime, & we have helped millions of people worldwide overcome their food shortages.

"Hayesh bah etz, im ayin – are there trees, or not?" Rashi defines "tree" here as referring to upstanding people of character, & we certainly have many of those. But I suggest that "tree" actually means tree! The question is: Are we planting trees? Because, as the Gemara teaches, planting trees is a sign of confidence of the future, that though it will take some time for those trees to grow, we – or our offspring – will be there to enjoy the fruits. We are, in other words, a confident & self-assured People.

The Spies, tragically, suffered from an acute, self-imposed inferiority complex; that is why they compared themselves to grasshoppers. And that was their fatal mistake. They should have understood that if they maintained their faith, they would conquer, with the Almighty’s help, every enemy, & overcome any obstacle.

And as long as WE stay faithful & believe in ourselves & in Hashem, then we, too, will IY’H continue to prevail & to grow stronger & stronger. Scouts’ honor
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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