Sh’lach5782 – A Land of Milk & Honey…Or Not?

By: Michael Carr

In this weeks parasha Shelach (which means to send, send to you, send for yourself)  God commands Moses to send 12 men (SPIES) – to check out the promised land before the Israelites enter the land.

As we find out the expedition was less than remarkable for 10 of the ‘SPIES’ – perhaps due to a lack of belief, inspired leadership, and a lack of faith. 

The Torah explains that a plague kills 10 of the spies except for Caleb and Joshua who had faith and a vision of what God wants for the Israelites. In fact, G-d selects Caleb to replace Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land along with Joshua. 

Due to spy transgressions caused by fear and risks associated with entering the promised land G-d commanded an entire generation of Israelites to wander for 40 years and all men who were 20 years and older would die in the desert  until the new Generation of men younger than 20 years of age were ready to enter the promised land.

So the spy ‘project’ failed, and G-d’s expectations/consequences of what failure meant to the spies and Israelites was not communicated from the start.  Seems like G-d was resetting or renewing expectations for the Israelites by assuring theirs would be a land flowing with milk and honey.  However a land flowing may have been hard for the Israelites to imagine after so many centuries of mental and physical oppressive slavery.

The ‘long game’ for the spies and Israelites was the purpose, cause and belief to evaluate the promised land and begin to inhabit the land. 

When you step back and look at the big picture an internal belief leading to confident, deliberate and strategic decision making related to the risk/reward of entering the Promised Land was what this story was about.

What if the spies and Israelites had asked: “How can we make this land of milk and honey OUR society?”

A society that is a safe and healthy, where our people will be treated not as slaves but rather with humanity, dignity and respect. 

A society without petulant, autocratic and demigod rulers and instead with laws that are fairly administered to all.

Rather than having an inspired vision from God for creating a just and verdant society, one with social, economic, education and welfare based systems, 10 spies were overwhelmed with fear associated with moving on to the Canaanite land.

Perhaps if G-d or Moses re-framed the spies initial task as an INSPIRED vision that the Promised Land is actually safe and would bring laughter, hope, health, happiness AND that this Israelite society was one they could create and develop by and for the Israelite Community, the Chosen People so the Community could continue to learn Torah, pray to one God, create an economy, raise families, livestock and crops,  build homes live in peace and expand the surviving generation of people who had been through so many life changing experiences. 

OH Yes and by the way there is this community of Canaanites and we can figure out a strategy to extricate them since their beliefs are antithetical to ours.

With a little inspired leadership would or could that vision have changed perspectives, attitudes, fear and uncertainty for the Israelites?

Caleb from the tribe of Judah  and Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim were
the optimists who believed a story like this.

They had vision, belief, cause and purpose perhaps because they held personal beliefs and hope for future generations of Israelites and
they remembered clearly what G-d had done for the Israelites by bringing
the Chosen People out of oppression.

Caleb and Joshua  saw a glass that was not only half-full but perhaps they thought it was important to have a larger glass for a vast society inspired and envisioned by God for the Israelites. For Caleb and Joshua moving into the Promised Land was the best option for the Israelites.

Here are four take away’s to consider from today’s Parasha when it comes to making important decisions:

1) be vulnerable enough to share what is known and what is not known and
ask WHY- for example – Why are we going into the promised land? Why is this important and why should anyone care?

2) ask questions of ourselves and others like: How can we better care for ourselves and others in our community so we know where we are going and what our purpose, cause and beliefs are about?

3) listen closely and humbly to questions others ask and listen carefully for  
answers that make sense to our hearts and minds and are consistent with
our personal values and beliefs

4) share knowledge to discover new questions/answers that will inspire us to move forward.

Let me leave you with this final thought from Simon Sinek who has stated in his presentations and books: “We (should) follow inspired leaders not for them – but for ourselves.”