Portion “Shlach L’cha” (Numbers 13) is a fascinating portion. This is the section where Moses sends representatives of the tribes to scout out Cannan. Most come back warning that the land is filled with giants who make us appear as “grasshoppers”. Two scouts, Caleb and Joshua take the opposite approach. The commentaries are filled with great discussions about this portion and the lack of faith that the majority of the scouts reflect.
Some of the comments look at the very first words of the portion. “Sh’lach” means send. What of the word “L’cha”? Some ask why this word is added, after all the text says “God spoke to Moses saying send scouts…” (13:1). Some rabbis see this word “L’cha”, which carries a sense of “you” or “yourself” as having a deeper meaning. The Israelites have been promised a “land flowing with milk and honey”. Yet, as human nature often dictates, we need to see for our own self if the promise is true. Faith is fine—to a point, it seems. But, most of us have to see with our own eyes. And what of the majority of the scouts who see in the land, (and in the promise?) only defeat?
A traditional commentary, echoed by many modern rabbis, sees in this the symbolism of how we see our own self. Do we look at the world and challenges as already a defeat? Or do we see in those challenges opportunities for growth? Are these points of view actually a reflection of our own self image, our own image of our own self. Do we have the faith in our own promise to continue to move forward, or do we seek the safety and security of the “known”, even if that known continues to enslave us?
Our own aging is similar to some of these issues that are found in the Torah portion. It is hard to stay positive all the time as we oursleves grow older. Yet, the message of Caleb and Joshua can be a reminder that we need not be afraid to move forward in our life: to continue to grow as people, to experience the new and to not fear entering that next “land” of our life’s journey. Fear reduces faith; faith in a higher purpose, a higher calling and in our own self. Let us not be afraid to “see” the positive as we scout out our own future.
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.
So glad I took the time to read this. Very encouraging to this baby boomer. Thank you, Sarah.