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If You Will It, It Is No Dream (Shelach – 06/09/18)

Rabbi Neil Schuman

If You Will It, It Is No Dream
Life’s challenges can be daunting.  From changing our diet to healing broken families to making our schools safe, “Mission Impossibles” seem to appear at every corner.
In our Torah reading, Parshat Shlach, the Children of Israel were on the border of Canaan faced with the formidable task of conquering all of its inhabitants.  They send spies (meraglim) to scout the land of Israel before their imminent invasion.  These spies were noblemen, respected leaders of their tribes, yet they returned with a dismal and demoralizing report (Numbers 13: 27-31), “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey…However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and we even saw the offspring of Giants.  The Amalekites dwell in the south land, while the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountainous region.  The Canaanites dwell on the coast and alongside the Jordan.  We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”
What were these small-minded spies thinking?  Surely, these newly freed slaves were not up to such a monumental challenge on their own, but they weren’t just relying upon an ancient version of the IDF.  They were going into the land because God wanted them to, with God’s support.  If the Almighty could vanquish the Egyptians and split the Red Sea, God could certainly handle a bunch of Canaanites!
The commentators struggle with the spies’ lack of belief. Some say, that actually the spies did believe that God could tackle the Canaanites, but they didn’t believe that they were worthy of such Divine support.
They had sinned with the Golden Calf, complained against the manna, rebelled a few times in the desert and even their leaders were getting reprimanded as Miriam had just recently been stricken with the Tzaraat disease.  The spies felt that they weren’t worthy of God’s help, and without Divine intervention they’d be better off sticking it out in the desert or going back to Egypt.
It’s seems as though Moshe recognized this lack of faith among the spies. Before he sent them on their journey, he changed Joshua’s name from Hoshea, Deliverance, to Yehoshua, God will deliver, alluding to them that God will be with them.  This message was lost on them though, and, because of their dispiriting report, the Children of Israel were forced to wander in the desert until a generation nurtured with greater belief was ready to lead the way.
We too face daunting challenges in life, from challenging personal issues to bigger national issues like fixing our government, addressing drug addiction and gun control, and fomenting peace in Israel and in the Middle East.  These seem like impossible tasks.
The lesson from our Parsha though is that we’re not on our own.  Despite our inadequacies, if our dreams are lofty and noble, God will help us and then we can achieve even the impossible.
“If you will it, it is no dream” Theodor Herzl

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