The spies of this week’s Parasha were not some low level infantry troops on patrol in enemy territory. They were high echelon, top brass from each tribe gathering intelligence about the land the God had promised—the God who had just one year earlier—humbled and brought the most powerful nation of the time to its knees. Yet, these Generals returned 40 days later reporting that the land could not be conquered.
Our Sages tell us that it was the arrogance, selfishness and pride of the leaders that caused them to give the depressing report. The Generals, part of the leadership of their tribes, were concerned that they would be forced to give up their positions of power, their high rank and station in life once they made it to the Promised Land. The new order would have no place for them and they would need to be working like others to till the fields and labor for their food once the precious manna ceased.
It was their fear of the unknown vs. their complacency with the known. It is so natural and human to resist or avoid change even when there are problems – how much more so for the “spies” who were living pretty cushy lives? Our Sages relate that “faith” must trump “anxiety” and “fear” and certainly “arrogance,” “pride” and “selfishness.”
Scientists tell us that human beings can generally recover and even overcome trauma and tragedy in 90 days or less, let alone minor changes or significant changes like job loss. Nevertheless, the human mind causes us to resist change—even helpful ones like leaving an unfulfilling or thankless job or an abusive relationship.
The 40 year punishment for the spies was stated by God to be 1 year for each day of the failed mission. The spies who sought to protect their cushy positions would die in the wilderness and not reach the Promised Land.
What is your promised land? Are you in it? If not, what would it take for you to get there?
We learn from this Parasha that we are to be courageous and zealous in pursuing that which we know is right– to be God’s people of faith.
This Shabbat we learn with Ruth Bergman. Our Torah Study is now beginning at 9:45 a.m.