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Moving Forward

Posted on 06/13/2014 @ 12:00 PM

Let’s just face it – change can be difficult. That is especially true in obvious instances like the passing of family and friends, moving from one home to another, or leaving a place of employment. We can be creatures of habit, and changing our routine can throw us from the stable ground on which we comfortably stood. Now our relationships will be different, our routine will shift – things will just not be the same.

This week’s parasha, Shelach Lecha, is one of the most important case studies on the failure to change in Jewish history. 12 leaders or “spies,” one from each tribe, were chosen to embark on a reconnaissance mission to check out the land of Israel before the Jewish camp was to enter the Promised Land. 10 of the 12 brought back an “evil report” – saying that the inhabitants of the land are giants, that the Jews would lose in battle, and that they should just return to Egypt where at least they’d be safe. On the one hand, you can hardly blame them – in most battles between Davids and Goliaths, the Goliaths win. On the other hand, after the 10 plagues in Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the “movement moment” at Mt. Sinai, they want to go back to the way things were?

The national failure of the spies is the inability to move forward. In the face of risk, fear, and uncertainty, sometimes the thing we need to do is just to move forward. In that sense, the punishment for this failure is consistent with the failure itself: They would not be allowed to move forward – and this is why we wandered the desert for 40 years.

This is also why we have a “minyan” – the quorum of 10 people for Jewish prayer – which is juxtaposed to the 10 spies who brought back the evil report. One might understand this as an ongoing attempt to right this wrong in Jewish history. It might also reflect a deep wisdom: If we need to move forward – and moving forward can be terrifying – then it’s better to do it together as a supportive community.

As we transition to our array of summer programs, as BBYO implements organizational changes, as we see “Note from ___” on Dashboard, as we celebrate weddings, births, graduations, and as life inevitably moves forward, let’s strive to create and sustain that supportive community in BBYO and among our family and friends. We will still move forward and we can enter the Promised Land, together.

(This Shabbat message was written by Ira J. Dounn, DJE of the Northeast Hub).

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