A Costly Trip

Categories: Parsha, Shelach

Art by Sefira Lightstone


This week’s Parsha, Shelach, contains a serious deviation from the “intended” script. Moses sends spies to scout out the Land of Israel before entering; the spies returned – except two, Joshua and Caleb – with an account of how difficult the land will be to conquer. The spies recount how there are giants, it is well fortified, etc. and they then suggest turning back or at least remaining in the desert. In sum, it would be just too difficult for the Jewish people to overcome. Yet they made a colossal mistake, and a costly one. G-d promised that the Jews would enter the land but decided to hold off for a new generation who believed they could accomplish it. There is much to discuss on this topic but I’ll mention one point. There were twelve spies in total. They returned, by and large, with a unanimous opinion, save for the two who opposed. So we have a clear majority feeling a certain way. Who could blame the Jewish people as a whole for listening and following their advice? Majority rules!
And yet, even in a democratic society, they were all to blame for this mistake. The Jewish people all paid the price for their collective change of heart thanks to this majority opinion. Because sometimes, when you know you’re right, you don’t need to change to go with the flow. If you know in your heart that something is right, that something is just or the opposite, that something needs to be corrected, you are responsible to stick to it. Yes, perhaps “everyone does it this way,” or “no one believes that,” but you must remain steadfast in your belief in what is right. My mother’s favorite tale we would hear when we were kids was The Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone was convincing themselves that the Emperor, standing there in the nude, was decked out in the finest, most fashionable couture, until a little innocent boy piped up and said, “he’s stark naked!” Trust yourself, especially in today’s world, to do what you know is right. Sometimes we’re not sure but often we are. But it’s never okay to just roll with it because everyone else is. If we remain true to our truest ourselves, we become our best selves. Sometimes we even see outward benefit, too, like Joshua who received the mantle of leadership from Moses. Good Shabbos!

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