3 Sivan  5776  פרשת שְׁלַח, כ”ו סיון, תשע”ו

There are two versions of this portion Shelach here and in Deuteronomy 1 where Moshe gives us a different narrative. In Deut. it looks like the people are requesting that Moshe send the scouts to reconnoiter the land whereas in Numbers it is the Creator to do that. In Numbers the word “meraglim” –  מרגלים or spies is not used, rather it is the word “l’tour” לתור meaning to inspect.  Instead of giving you a treatise on how our sages interpret this, I would like to make it applicable for us here today. I have been in Montreal since 1992 through highs and lows, having been attacked on all sides but the worst thing I experienced is “lashon harah”, the evil tongue.  In Judaism we are taught that this is something that we should not do. Rashi explained that lashon harah was the reason that these scouts were punished. 

Since the time I arrived in Montreal, I have been told on many occasions that we would not last more than one year yet here we are 24 years later. Many people have come and gone — some supporters and some detractors.  I have been trying to teach throughout this period “say no to religion, say yes to our Creator”.  Religiosity fools us into thinking that the things we do will bring us closer to the Creator.   He created us not vice versa.  Religions create their own version of their gods. They can call them whatever they want but these gods are made in the likeness and image of the religious leaders instead of their leaders being made in the likeness and image of the Creator. Each group imposes their ways upon others and the more fanatic they become the less capable their followers are able to think for themselves.  The result is that they try to destroy anyone who doesn’t believe like them.

Instead we need to allow the Creator to take care of those who don’t believe like us; it’s His job not ours. Anytime we go through this process we will have many detractors since most people are too comfortable in their seats.   They don’t like to be moved. I challenge you with the fact that our Creator gave you free will and the capacity to think for yourself; we are not robots.  He doesn’t impose Himself upon us but gives us His revelation as He did at Har Sinai where He brought us the light of the Torah. This was not exclusively for the people of Israel rather we would be the guardians and we were to disseminate it to the entire world making us to be “ohr l’goyim”, light to the world. When Israel stops being a light to the world, chaos ensues. We are seeing this right now in the world. Instead of looking at our neighbors as the cause of our problems, we need to look at ourselves as our Messiah Yeshua told us—“do not try to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye but take first the log out of your own eye.”   Check yourself before you condemn others.

In this portion the Creator told Moshe to choose one prince, chief from each of the 12 tribes with the exception of the Levites. They would go to scout the land. Until the point, Israel had done absolutely nothing to get where they were. They had been carried by our Creator under the leadership of Moshe Rabeinu.  The people were still holding on to that slave mentality where they were not capable to doing anything on their own. Most people today have that same mentality especially within the realm of religion believing that if they don’t do what their leaders tell them to do, then something bad will happen to them.  Our Creator frees us from superstition and fear when live under His banner. These men who were chosen had strong qualities of leadership. From the 12 only 2 returned with a different perspective.  The twelve all did what they were asked to do so what was the problem?  The men who were sent by Moshe, instead of taking their report in private to Moshe and the elders, they poured out their fears in public infecting the entire camp of Israel. This is lashon harah and the consequences were grave. It’s true that they acknowledged that this was indeed the land of milk and honey but they described the walled cities with giant of men who they could never conquer. They didn’t believe that the Creator could help them even after all He had done.  It is important to understand that He does not hand us everything on a silver spoon, we need to do the work but He promises to always be with us. The scouts allowed their imagination to run away with them; they believed their own lies and spread their fears to the rest. Phobias can become an obstacle in our lives even when they no longer have a basis in reality. They spread the fear of the “Anakim” who in reality no longer existed but had been destroyed with the flood. These giants were a fabrication of their own imaginations. What a difference between them and David who while still a shepherd defeated the giant Goliath because of his trust in the fact that His God was with him. 

The scouts were not cowards so what was the problem? This is what we have to look at in relation with ourselves today.  The problem was that they thought that they would have to conquer the land on their own. Yes they would have to fight for it but they would have the God of Israel at their side.  In Zechariah 4:6 it is written “not by might nor by power but by my spirit, said the L-RD of hosts”. We are facing this problem today.  Everyone speaks about emunah – faith. It is easy to say “oh I have faith” however many fail when it comes to putting their faith into action – “bitachon” or trust.  Without the Creator we cannot do it but with Him anything is possible.

That is today’s message in a nutshell.  I was told that we would not last more than 3 years in Montreal but 24 years later here we are in spite of everything.    Our trust is not in ourselves but in what God is doing with us. If this place is not from Him, what is the purpose of our being here, we are wasting our time? 

The men that our Creator uses may not be the best according to human understanding but He knows their hearts. When Samuel went to choose the king to replace Saul from the house of Yishai   (Jesse), he went through all his sons and not one of them was accepted by our Creator.  He asked if there was another son and they called for his last son, a young shepherd boy.  He was toldBut the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7. 

At the end of this portion in Numbers 15:39, the word from the verb l’tour is used again as a leitmotif of the entire portion.

          …   וְלֹא תָתוּרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר

…”and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray.”     Our sages tell us that evil begins with the eyes, goes to the hearts and then our bodies take over to commit the sin. The Torah teaches us a little differently. It begins with the heart, then to the eyes and lastly to the body as the perpetrator. What is the difference?  It is very important to understand that we all have the capability of saying “NO”. Our intention or our will makes the final decision…not the eyes or the body.  That’s the result of the decision taken.  I have done much addiction counseling. In every AA program they teach that there is a Creator who gives us the strength and force for us to face our fears, our limitations and problems. This is the key to the issue. We have to do the rest about the monsters we have created in our own minds. We are greater than any addictive substance when God is with us.  Rabbi Shaul said “ If God is with us, who can be against us.? Romans 8:31

 Most of us have a selfish attitude. We are not an island but we live in community where we help each other. When we isolate ourselves we die.  The word “caret”, cut off was a very frightening term in the Torah for if someone was cut off from the community of Israel there was no chance of survival in the desert.  They would be cut from all the benefits that they would receive from being part of the community – growth, nurturing, protection and family relationships. When anyone leaves the community I always recommend that they go to another community. Do not be on your own or you will shrivel up spiritually.  That is why the scouts failed.  Sometimes we have the tendency to elevate Israel as being higher than they are. They are regular people with a glorious God. We don’t need to be an extraordinary person to be called and used by God. 

Numbers 14 says: 1 The whole community then cried out in dismay, and the people wept all that night.2 All the Israelites muttered at Moses and Aaron, and the whole community said to them, ‘Would to God we had died in Egypt, or even that we had died in this desert!3 Why has the LORD brought us to this country, for us to perish by the sword and our wives and children to be seized as booty? Should we not do better to go back to Egypt?’4 And they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.’

Yeshua told us to not cast our pearls before swine which go back to the mud. They wanted to return to the mud.  That is our Israel.

5 At this, Moses and Aaron threw themselves on their faces in front of the whole assembled community of Israelites, 6 while Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, two of the men who had reconnoitered the country, tore their clothes 7 and addressed the whole community of Israelites as follows, ‘The country we went to reconnoiter is a good country, an excellent country. 

It is interesting that these two men were Joshua a son of Israel from Ephraim and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, a Kenizite, a Gentile. What is the principle here?  The conquering of the Promised Land would be by the people that our Creator has chosen out of the Jews and Gentiles, not only Jews. Many people admire Rabbi Akiva but don’t know that he was a proselyte. In the Tanach there is a prophet named Obadiah who was not a Jew yet a book is named after him.  We have always have been a mixed multitude. One group is not better than any other group. What counts is the heart.  

8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into this country and give it to us. It is a country flowing with milk and honey. 9 But do not rebel against the LORD or be afraid of the people of the country, for we shall gobble them up. Their protecting shade has deserted them, while we have the LORD on our side. Do not be afraid of them.’

These two men cried out to the people that no one could stop them because they had the true God on their side. 

10 The whole community was talking of stoning them, when the glory of the LORD appeared to all the Israelites, inside the Tent of Meeting, 11 and the LORD said to Moses: ‘How much longer will these people treat me with contempt? How much longer will they refuse to trust me, in spite of all the signs I have displayed among them?

Then we see once again that Moshe Rabeinu intercedes for his people begging the LORD not to destroy them. Here is a beautiful principle of zechut avoteinu, the merits of our fathers…the idea of intercessory prayer by the righteous for others. Our Creator listens to His creation. 

We have been in Montreal spreading a message which is not popular especially for the religious people who are threatened by it.  We are saying that our relationship is more important than rules and regulations or by how many times you beat your breast crying out “mea culpa”. It is more important to understand the idea of true teshuva, coming back to Him. The sincerity of our hearts is what the Creator sees.  The challenge and battle that we have with others amounts to little when compared with what we receive from our Creator. He doesn’t want people who are holier than thou and better than others. He wants us to be honest with ourselves so that we can be honest with others.

When our Messiah Yeshua was asked by the scribes and Pharisees what was the greatest commandment he replied “Love God with all your heart, your soul, your might and love your neighbor as you love yourself”.  This sums up the Ten Commandments. The first three point to loving God; the second two about the Shabbat and honoring your parents is about loving and respecting ourselves. Shabbat was given for us and our parents gave us life. The last 5 from 6-10 are about loving our neighbors. My rights end when their rights begin.  In whom do you trust? Do you trust in yourself and others or in the Creator?  Are you walking on your own or with Him by your side?   This is what our Messiah Yeshua came to show us how to do by his example.