By Rabbi Sharon Litwin
“The whole world is a very narrow bridge and main thing is to not be afraid.”
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav must have taken this lesson directly from this week’s Parsha, Shlach-L’cha. God instructs Moses to send one man from every tribe to scout out the Land, then known as Canaan, so that the Israelites would know what lay ahead of them when they entered into the Promised Land. The story most of the scouts tell when they return is of giants and fortified cities and impassible terrain. Only Joshua and Caleb tell of a land flowing with milk and honey, giant grapes, pomegranates and figs.
The remaining scouts concur that there is indeed fruit to be had, but that the people who inhabit the land will not be conquered and will attack the Israelites. “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them,” report the spies. And the rest of the Children of Israel erupt in cries of fear and complaints. “If only we had stayed in Egypt.” “Why is God doing this to us?” “We are going to die here in the wilderness!” And so, they do.
God’s response is that the generation that fled Egypt will not merit entering into the Promised Land, they will not inherit the good fortune promised to them, because they didn’t trust. They were afraid. They cried out in a way that made them seem ungrateful and childlike. And so, their descendants, along with only Joshua and Caleb, the brave scouts who knew that God would be with them, earned the privilege of entrance into the Land flowing with milk and honey.
How many times have you learned this lesson? Whether it be as a child jumping into the pool for the first time, trying out a new activity or performing in front of an audience, or as an adult, taking the leap and creating a new family, starting a new job, moving to a new place, or embracing any major change. We are always afraid. We know that if we look around any corner we will find giants out to stand in our way. But, like Joshua and Caleb, we must see that any new risk also comes with reward. Milk and honey and a new lease on life may be around the corner, if we have faith and are not afraid.