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When We Look Up, We Can Overcome Our Fears

I heard someone say that the lesson will be repeated until the lesson is learned. B’nai Yisrael is closer and closer to entering Eretz Yisrael (The Promised Land), but there is one thing they seem to continue doing- complain! The complaint in the Parasha this week, Shelach is a little different. It was a huge failure and caused the nation to become demoralized.

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃

שְׁלַח־לְךָ֣ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים וְיָתֻ֙רוּ֙ אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן אֲשֶׁר־אֲנִ֥י נֹתֵ֖ן לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אִ֣ישׁ אֶחָד֩ אִ֨ישׁ אֶחָ֜ד לְמַטֵּ֤ה אֲבֹתָיו֙ תִּשְׁלָ֔חוּ כֹּ֖ל נָשִׂ֥יא בָהֶֽם

“The Lord Spoke to Moshe saying: Send men to scout the land of Canaan, which I am giving to B’nai Yisrael; send one man from each of their ancestral tribes, each one a chieftan among them.” (Shelach 13:1-2)

One member from each of the twelve tribes went to scout out the land of Israel. Ten of the scouts return with a dismal report:

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large… We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are… The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height… We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Num. 13:27-33)

Why was their report negative? The truth was that Hashem brought them out of Egypt, the greatest empire of the ancient world! They crossed the Red Sea, battled the Amalekites, and Sichon and Og. The people living in the land were afraid of them because they heard about their victories.

Caleb and Joshua were true leaders. They encouraged B’nai Yisrael. They told the people that they could enter the land with Hashem’s help. Unfortunately, the people did not listen, and they did not merit to enter the land. Only Caleb and Joshua merited to enter the land. They had faith and tried to inspire everyone else, but to no avail. Leaders have faith in themselves and the people they lead to inspire them. There’s a self-fulfilling prophecy as Henry Ford said “whether you think you can or you can’t either way you are right.” As Rabbi Sacks wrote “If you lack confidence you will lose. If you have it – solid, justified confidence based on preparation and past performance – you will win. Not always, but often enough to triumph over setbacks and failures. That, as mentioned in our study of parshat Beshallach, is what the story of Moses’ hands is about, during the battle against the Amalekites. When the Israelites look up, they win. When they look down they start to lose.”

The truth was that the men sent to scout Eretz Yisrael were afraid of victory. In the wilderness, everything was given to them: manna from heaven, water from a rock, G-d’s clouds of glory. They were extremely close to G-d. Once they entered the land, they would have to build and sustain an army, fight wars, plough, plant seeds, gather harvests, and build an economic system. Why would they want to leave this easy life they had in the wilderness? Would we want to give that up? Their relationship with Hashem would change. G-d wants us to bring holiness to the secular world. Our mission is to bring G-d’s holiness in our families, businesses, factories, farms, finance, our life. We bring holiness when we say a blessing before we eat, love others, and treat them with respect, and when we are honest in business.

How many of us fear success? An opportunity is brought before us, and we process it over and over in our minds that we cannot do it. We fail to become what we might have become due to lack of faith.

We can learn about how to handle fear, both of failure and success by reading the final verses of the Parasha which talk about Tzitzit (Bamidbar 15:38-41).

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וְעָשׂ֨וּ לָהֶ֥ם צִיצִ֛ת עַל־כַּנְפֵ֥י בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹתָ֑ם וְנָ֥תְנ֛וּ עַל־צִיצִ֥ת הַכָּנָ֖ף פְּתִ֥יל תְּכֵֽלֶת

Hashem commands us to make fringes on the corners of our garments, among them a thread of blue. As Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe said in his Torah podcast this week “the blue is similar to the sea, the sea is similar to the heavens, and the heavens are similar to G-d’s throne of glory.” By looking at our Tzitzit, we are reminded to do Mitzvot and connect with Hashem.


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