Journeying without fear
The Torah portion, Shlach, describes the mission of the 12 Israelite spies sent to explore the land of Israel and report back to the nation. All except for Joshua and Caleb return with pessimistic reports. Among the frightened reflections, they share tales of seeing “giants”, who trigger within the 10 spies a sense of weakness. Intimidated by these strange people, the spies’ first reaction is one of self-doubt. In the face of a perceived threat, these men view themselves as small and helpless. In our battle, too, we’re faced with challenges that often appear beyond our capacity to change. And yet, we also know that our strength begins in believing in our own abilities and having faith that together, we can overcome any obstacles.
We’re mortal creatures, we have a beginning and an end. In between, we have life. Life is like a marriage, we stay in it because it works and we love it, or because we’re afraid of the unknown alternative, or because we hope it will get better, or because we care about other people and live our lives for others, or a combination of any or all of these. There’s another final reason: we believe our lives aren’t ours, but belong to a divine being, and we’re duty-bound to wake up tomorrow and serve and have faith in G-d.
To truly love someone is to grow together, not to idealise them as if they are the person you knew many years ago in the optimism of youth. What’s true for human partners is also true for the relationship between us and G-d. I believe that true love is love with open eyes and the determination to go through whatever life brings together.
Personal change and growth can be so scary, that sometimes people would rather be stuck in something worse than go forward into the future. We might think of a person stuck in a bad work situation, an abusive relationship, an addiction, or unhealthy grief. Even though it’s “Egypt”, a place of real personal unhappiness, sometimes it’s more comfortable than the hard personal choices that G-d lays before us.
For the Israelites, there really wasn’t a choice: they had to go forward into their destiny as a nation in spite of the hardships. They might have complained along the way and pined for the comfortable spiritual paralysis of servitude, but their journey was laid out for them. Perhaps the fact that they moved forward in spite of their fears, complaints, and doubts, can be an inspiration for each of us to do the same. No matter how good the past seems in our memory or how scary the future might be, ultimately we must move forward, embrace our destiny, and appreciate the blessings of the present. Perception shapes reality.
May we all believe in ourselves and spread this to others.