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Sh’lach L’cha – The Frailty of Faith

June 19, 2009

I am back on the grid and happy to be writing for this coming Shabbat; which can’t come soon enough for me. In this wonderful Torah portion (Numbers 13-15 roughly) G-d gives the land of Israel to the people. There are so many wonderful commentaries on this portion that I got lost in reading them. I am sure that I will duplicate the ideas of other here because I can’t see much that hasn’t been written on this portion, it offers so much to think about. This portion is about gifts and about betrayal, weakness and, ultimately, faith. The literal happenstance is that spies are sent out to Israel to see if the gift is worth having. Of the twelve spies, ten come back saying it will be too hard, the people are too strong and too big and cannot be overcome; just two say that the land is worth the fight. As a result, although G-d forgives the people, the people are punished and exiled to wander the desert for 40 years before entering the land. So, there is the gift, and the relationship that comes with it; and there is the free will to reject the gift which is itself another gift. In this portion the people abuse both gifts. Think of all the miracles G-d has wrought in the Torah prior to this event; think of all the people have been through and survived! Yet they did not have the faith to believe that once again they would be alright. So fear, spiritual or emotional fear, lives in the place where faith should be. In one commentary I read it supposes that the spies wanted to stay in the desert for there they could simply depend on G-d for everything (so they had enought faith for this?) and not work at building the land or fulfilling the agricultural/work mitzvot that can only be accomplished in the land of Israel. Laziness? Or just fear? We too often fail to see our part, our “footwork” and where that diverges from the greater plan and therefore fail to give to G-d what we cannot do or understand. We humans have our part, and we have our free will, but without faith we are rootless. We are, like the Israelites of old, cut off from our relationship with G-d. Gifts create a relationship between the giver and the receiver; to give casually and without thought is to offend the receiver, and to scorn them is to insult the giver. We should give with sensitivity and receive with grace. We continue, like those Israelites, to struggle with the gift of faith. We often fail to receive the gift with grace, we are imperfect in our faith. Our faith is fragile and often transitory, needing to be revisited and rebuilt constantly. This is the wonder of Shabbat. The gift of faith is the gift of a meaningful life, much greater than the gift of life itself. On Shabbat we have the opportunity, weekly, to revisit and rebuild our faith, our relationship with G-d and the meaning in our lives. Shabbat Shalom.

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