FAITH and OPTIMISM

The Children of Israel have repeatedly shown lack of faith.  In spite of being freed from bondage and saved from Egyptian repression, participating in the revelation of Torah and witnessing many miracles -- they keep complaining and raising doubts.  Many express their wish to go back to Egypt.  "We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt, free of charge" (Numbers 11:5).  They remember the good old days for the free food that they received as slaves, and forget the slavery and lack of freedom.  They prefer the known past over the unknown future and justify their attitude by glorifying the past.  The Promised Land and the promised future of independence and prosperity are just promises.  Without faith, the future is just a source of anxiety.
 So Moses selects twelve people to go and spy the Promised Land.  The spies are "all distinguished men, heads of the Children of Israel" (Numbers 13:3), one from each tribe.  They are instructed by Moses to check the land, the cities and the strength of the inhabitants.  After forty days, these fine delegates return with a report of their findings: "indeed it flows with milk and honey" but "the people that dwells on the Land is strong, the cities are fortified and very large, and we even saw there offspring of the giant" (Numbers 13:27-28).  Ten of the spies advise that it would be impossible to conquer the land and only two of the twelve believe that they could achieve that.  As a result of this discouraging report the people panic "so they said to one another: let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt" (Numbers 14:4).
 It is interesting that the two optimistic spies did not argue with the report, but only with the recommendation.  The basis for their different opinion was their faith, because "God is with us.  You shall not fear them" (Numbers 14:9).  They knew that it would be hard, but their faith led to their optimism, to the willingness to take a risk for the sake of freedom and better life.
 "And Joshua Bin-Nun and Caleb Ben-Yefuneh lived from those men who went to spy the Land" (Numbers 14:38).  Joshua became the leader after Moses and Caleb became a military commander.  For their faith, optimism and courage, they were given the opportunity to fulfill their vision.  The other ten spies, the messengers of doom and gloom, perished in the desert, together with all that generation of whiners.

-- Judah Ari-Gur

 

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