Encamped at the edge of Canaan, Moses sends out people to scout out this land. (Numbers 13). After all, God has promised it to them, so what could go wrong! So men go to scout and the majority of them return with a “don’t go” report. There are people who would devour us (13:12,13) as we seem like grasshoppers. Yet, two others, Joshua and Caleb bring back a more optimistic report, saying (13: 7,8,9) the land was flowing with “milk and honey” and that after all, remember that God promised it. Their reward for such a report was to be threatened with physical harm (verse 10).
This famous story of the spies is a popular one for comments. It really does speak to so much of life; that we see what we wish to see and that, even when we are confronted with truth, we often choose not to see what is in front of us. We have all been there. A job, a relationship, a belief; we go for it, choosing to “see” what, in reality is not there, and only by living and experiencing the reality, do we come back to say something like “how come I did not see that before?”
I think that can be one of the gifts of our own aging process. We kind of know, based on our own experience, what is real and what seems to be real. Of course, we live in a media a driven society where that 30 second photo-op or sound bite can be perceived as real. It is judgement and the ability to step back, at times, and reflect on context that can strip away the facade of reality and reveal an emptiness.
Perhaps another meaning to this story is also found in the Joshua and Caleb account. That has to do with trusting what you see and your own instincts. We have all lived a bit and some may have, over the course of life, learned to trust that inner voice, those life honed instincts that usually know what is best for us. Faith in those instincts is a very valuable asset. It can help us cut through the “noise” and see the reality of a situation. Trust and faith in one’s self and one’s beliefs: not a bad message!!!
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.