Words of Torah
Sh’lach l’cha: Numbers 13:1-16:41
Rabbi Em Mueller
Sim Shalom On-line Synagogue
June 28, 2016
In this Torah portion, scouts go into the land that God promised to our ancestors. The Israelites have been at Mount Sinai; they’ve wandered through the wilderness; they’ve committed offenses and suffered plague and drought and overabundance. Finally, they approach their destination. Moses send ten men into the land to “see what kind of country it is; are the people who dwell in it strong or weak, few or many? Is the country in which they dwell good or bad? Are the towns they live in open or fortified? Is the soil rich or poor? Is it wooded or not? And take pains to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”
We are told they scouted the land all around and returned after 40 days (hmmm interesting number!). They reported to Moses and the whole Israelite community that the land does flow with milk and honey, and they brought some fruit back with them. However, they said, the people are powerful, the cities fortified and large. The entire land is filled with people. We can’t attack them; they’re stronger than us. We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.
Well, needless to say the whole community got terrified; wished they’d died in the desert, or returned to slavery.
Only two scouts, Caleb and Joshua, said that they should go forward. They said that the land they scouted is very good, and “if God is pleased with us, God will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to use; only you must not rebel against God.
While reading this I couldn’t help think of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. The impulse to leave came from the “Britain First” movement, which reminds me a lot of Donal Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, or anyone not white. It’s an insular way of thinking.
On one hand, I can understand the fear that the British character will be absorbed into a general European character; or here in the states, that we need to “take back” our country from illegal foreigners.
I’m not saying God will provide; but I do think that the desire to build walls and close ourselves off from the “other” arises from fear. Facts provide very different responses: that people fare much better and economies are much stronger when there is more freedom, not less.
Perhaps God’s role in any of this is giving us the strength within our own hearts to open the door to the stranger, to welcome new experiences, to rise above our fears.
May this week be filled with open doors and kindness.