Parashat Shelach: The Promise
Have you ever been close to accomplishing a dream, or almost finishing a project, and have gotten a little bit of cold feet towards the end? Been nervous about the outcome, or what will happen afterwards? Completing a chapter of your journey, reaching the end of something can be just as daunting as starting something new, that feeling of taking an initial jump or risk. Perhaps because there is still a sense of the unknown, which is something we all struggle with. What will happen next? How will people react to what I’ve created? What will the consequences be?
In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach, the Israelites have almost reached the Promised Land. They have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, and G-d has finally led them to the place He promised them. This part of their journey is almost over. But, what will the Land be like? What will happen once they get there? Before walking into the Land, G-d tells Moses to send 12 men to scout the Land, 12 leaders of Israel to see what will be theirs. G-d even gives them guidelines to explore with, “You shall see what [kind of] land it is, and the people who inhabit it; are they strong or weak? Are there few or many? And what of the land they inhabit? Is it good or bad? And what of the cities in which they reside are they in camps or in fortresses? What is the soil like is it fat or lean? Are there any trees in it or not? You shall be courageous and take from the fruit of the land (Numbers 13:18-20).” So they go, and 10 out of 12 of them are absolutely terrified. In fact they are so afraid of what they have seen that they try to rile the rest of the Israelites to rebel against G-d, and return to Egypt.
Amazing that even with all the miracles that G-d performed for the Israelites that they still struggled believing in G-d. From the moment they were freed from Egypt to now when they have almost reached the promised land, they doubt G-d. They don’t trust in Him, they don’t trust that He will follow through with His words, despite the fact that G-d has proven Himself through many actions. The 10 plagues, splitting of the Red Sea, and providing the Israelites manna to eat in the wilderness, just to name a few of these miracles. They don’t trust in the journey. What does that say about the Israelites? They have survived so much, with great support, even making mistakes along the way, needing to be forgiven multiple times. Yet, they see the Land that will be theirs and they freeze. They see another potential challenge and they freeze. How very human of them. However, perhaps they didn’t really fear what they saw, but they feared what finally reaching the Promised Land would mean for them. The Israelites lived as slaves and wanderers, but what would it be like to have a Land of their own?
Tonight at your Shabbat dinner table, think of all the dreams and things you have accomplished in your life. How did you feel? What happened afterwards? What was the experience like? Put yourself in the Israelites place. Remember your fears. Remember your successes and your failures. Remember trying again, and remember what it was like to take that last step, the last step you took to accomplish the thing you were striving so hard for. Know that all of these steps are all a part of the journey. All the fears, all the steps forward and backwards all lead to the Land. And remember most importantly to believe along the way.