Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah-Sh’lach L’cha

Faith is a funny thing. It fills the heart, feeds the soul, and sustains the spirit. Often, though, it takes the failure of each to test and then prove one’s faith. It is easy to be “faithful” in the midst of good things. When everything is going your way, it is easy to have expectations of the good and the blessed all around; it is easier to take them for granted. When the challenges happen, that is when we get put to the test. If you know me, then you know my mantra is, “I am blessed every day.” I really do mean it and have learned to mean it … every day. It takes work (note I use the present tense) because there are days that don’t always feel so blessed, and I have to remember to look for the blessings that exist and proliferate. If I am not diligent in this search, then I get stuck. I miss the amazing things that happen all around me and can only seem to focus on the fears, insecurities, and challenges that offer to consume me. So, every day, I try to remember to start my day with the words (or at least the intentional thoughts), “Modeh ani lefanecha … I give thanks to God for this day.” I also have to remember Psalm 118:24, “Zeh hayom asah Adonai, n’gilah v’nism’cha bo …This day is the day that God has made— let us exult and rejoice on it.”

Torah offers us a host of episodes that challenge us to remember to seek blessings. Israel’s journey through the wilderness presents challenges that exceed even the nightmare of slavery in Egypt. In Egypt, we lived in servitude but maintained enough identity and relationship with God that, when it came time to experience the freedom and the exodus, Israel knew who God was calling. In the wilderness, we faced the greatest challenges to faith. We confronted the prospect of war, famine, disease, and abandonment. Throughout the journey, those who had enough faith survived while those whose faith failed them perished.

The journey from Egypt to the River Jordan took only a short time. This week, we read that the people wanted to send spies to check out the “Promised Land.” Representatives of each of the twelve tribes crossed the river. They saw the most luscious fruits and fertile lands. They carried giant fruits back to camp to show the people what they found. Ten of the twelve extrapolated that the only reason fruit that size existed had to be because the folks who ate them had to be giants, as well. Not having seen any giants, they assumed their existence. “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger (greater) than we (13:30).”

Caleb and Joshua tried expressing that God said the land would produce amazing results. The people, having grown up as slaves failed in faith. They could not believe that they stood before the evidence of miracles, unable to get past their fear of continued oppression. God forced Israel to leave the shore of the Jordan and wander 40 years, enough time for the generations born into slavery to pass away. All who were left knew the stories of their ancestors and their ancestral tribes. Born free, however, the experience of slavery remained unknown and unexperienced. As Israel would later enter the land, they grew an appreciation for the land they stood to inherit.

Torah is not a history. It teaches moral and ethical values giving us stories (or parts of stories) to study and discuss. Throughout text we read that we often have to choose between the blessing and the curse; between life and death. In every case, Torah commands us to choose the blessing and choose life. We cannot always control what happens to us and certainly do control how the world presents itself to us, but in every case, we determine how to face the evidence before us. We need to stop living in fear and insecurity; only feeling affirmed at the expense of another. If only fewer people would hide behind the religion they create to protect their fragile ego and lack of faith. If more us held faith that we matter and that everyone matters, we would not have to march against the injustices of bigotry and the horrors of war and gun violence. It is easy to stay afraid and insecure, but doing so only destroys life. It takes work to live in faith. Like Joshua and Caleb, we would see the luscious giant fruit as miraculous blessing. In every case when we have to choose between the blessing and the curse; between life and death – u’v’charta b’chayim. Choose life. Shabbat Shalom.