Shelach Lecha


On the face of it, the episode of the spies was a tragedy. The Children of Israel were on the threshold of the land of Israel. They had asked for reconnaissance about the land, which G-d and Moses agreed to give them. Twelve distinguished representatives set off on their expedition. The negative report of ten of them, led to the forty-year wandering in the desert.

But what would have been the alternative? 

Had they not failed, the people would have advanced straight to the land, led by pillars of fire and clouds of glory. The land of Canaan would have been conquered miraculously. The Children of Israel would have been passive participants as any resistance melted away.

Our Sages teach us that most people prefer what they have worked for and have achieved by themselves than what is handed to them on a plate by others. As King David expressed in Psalm 128: “When a person eats of the labour of their own hand, it is praiseworthy and good for them.”

Because of the sin of the spies, that generation had to undertake a journey of growth to prepare themselves for a physical conquest of the land. They needed to work hard to achieve the mindset that would enable them to confront the challenges ahead. Even though they knew G-d would help them, they still had to put in the effort themselves. As we find later, the conquest of the land under Joshua was not without its setbacks. But because of this, the people developed a bond with the land that was far deeper than if they had simply been the passive recipients of a Divine gift. 

We have all suffered disappointments as a result of the Covid 19 crisis. Individual tragedies of the loss of beloved family members and friends. Businesses and professional lives disrupted, and young people’s education curtailed. Simchas that have had to be cancelled or postponed.

Yet in many ways we have grown. There have been countless instances of kindness as so many people have reached out to one another. Volunteers fetching shopping. Connections made between neighbours who had not known of each other’s existence before. The discovery of zoom and the new opportunities for learning and interaction. Coronavirus may be keeping us apart but bonds of friendship and concern that have evolved have been inspiring to see.

Please G-d, in the coming weeks – if all goes to plan, from 5th July – we will re-enter our synagogue for services. We will take steps to resume life in shul, albeit cautiously. 

Our challenge?

To hold on to the tremendous capacity we have uncovered for caring for one another as we rebuild our community together.