The Question Is Not About The Facts, It Is About How You Face Them! People know a lot about statistics, but statistics know nothing about the power of will!
“This Torah portion begins with “Shelach lecha”. According to Rashi, God says – if you wish, send the envoys over to check. We often think that we need to see in order to believe. However this portion demonstrates that the truth is generally the opposite: we need to believe in order to see”.
People know a lot about statistics, but statistics know nothing about the power of will!
Parashat Shelach Lecha is the fourth Torah portion in the book of Numbers. “Send thou men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel; of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man.” (Numbers 13:2)
Moshe sends the 12 representatives (one of each tribe), among them Joshua Ben Nun and Caleb Ben Jephunneh. The spies come back saying (Numbers 13:26 – 14:9) :
“We went into the land … and it does flow with milk and honey! … But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there…”
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” …
Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown … Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land … and will give it to us… do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
This is one of the most interesting discussions in the whole Torah. It is not about what the spies saw, because there is no disagreement about that; it is rather about how to act upon these facts. All the spies saw and understood that the land of Canaan is very fruitful, it is a land of milk and honey. They all also admit the reality that there are giant warriors there. But they deal with these dry facts in exact opposite ways.
Ten out of the twelve spies stand and argue that we can’t conquer the land of Canaan, they actually DON’T BELIEVE that this is possible. In the other “corner” stand Caleb and Joshua with DEEP FAITH and say: “Come on, we saw it! It’s a good land, we can do it!” “It’s worth the effort!”
This is in my opinion an extremely important moment in this Torah portion and in the whole Torah. This is the point in which human beings stand in a crossroads, they see how difficult the way ahead is going to be, and being scared and tired they need to determine whether to continue or to turn around. Basically, the difference between the two positions is based on their disagreeing evaluations of the chances that they have to succeed. This idea reminds me a beautiful conversation that I had with a beloved person when I was a teenager. I was then myself in a crossroads in life and I was about to resign a dream. When he asked me why, I answered – “because someone told me the statistics and I saw that my chances of success are very poor”. Then he told me something that I treasure still today: “These people know a lot about statistics, but statistics know nothing about the power of will”. When I translate this idea to the spiritual world I know that reality can be changed by our ability to believe that we are capable of changing it. This is the key. It’s confronting the big challenges in our life, in the world, believing and holding the faith that we can make it.
This faith does not need to be without base. It is based on our strengths, on our necessities, on our intelligence, on our will, our support. Without this capability to believe planes wouldn’t be found in the sky, the modern technological world would never have developed, we wouldn’t be able to save sick people’s lives, we wouldn’t be able to get organized as a society because all of these things are made possible thanks to our daring to challenge what is statistically hard to make. Faith by itself will not help you pass your exam, but without it you will never even open the study book. We need faith in order to take the steps that will lead us to succeed. The Torah demonstrates this when many years later, even though the dry facts remain unchanged, Joshua and Caleb conquer the land.
This Torah portion begins with “Shelach lecha”. According to Rashi, God says – if you wish, send the envoys over to check. We often think that we need to see in order to believe. However this portion demonstrates that the truth is generally the opposite: we need to believe in order to see. Faith entails our human capability to imagine, faith entails our drive to get up and change something. And I repeat – faith is not one of God’s needs, but a basic human one. When Joshua and Caleb connect the facts with faith, with the power of will, they show us that the question shouldn’t be “do you believe?”, it should be “do you want to believe?”
Thank you Rabbi Nico and we look forward to the arrival of you and your family, hopefully sometime in August.
Thank you Sheri! We are looking forward to being there soon!Kol tuv and Shavua tov!
This is my favourite discussion so far! I’m gonna print it and keep on my desk. Thanks!