If there’s any parsha that elicits my facepalm reflex, it’s this one. After being stuffed with endless amounts of poultry, you’d think the people would catch onto the fact that what G-d actually asks of them is what is indeed what’s best for them. Please people, say it with me, “the Egyptians enslaved us. Egypt was bad place to be…”
Understandably, change can be challenging to move with full steam ahead – even the good, highly anticipated kind. And as the Jewish people proved in last week’s parsha, looking on the bright side isn’t something the majority of people are willing to do.
Thankfully though, Moshe is not alone on the “bright side” train this time around; now he has the likes of Joshua and Caleb on his side, two of the ten spies who went to inspect the Land of Canaan before bringing in the nation. With a huge interest in the Tribe of Ephraim, I’m going to leave a rendering of Joshua’s character for another time (there’s much to say!). This week, I’d like to bring a thought on Caleb:
After the majority of the spies advised against moving forward into Canaan, Caleb is praised for his voicing an unwavering “can do” attitude, despite the negative talk around him. The text states that “there was another spirit with him” (14:24). What is this “other spirit?” According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, it was “a different way of looking at things and a different will that saved him from the sin of his comrades.” He had the determination and desire to look beyond the present moment and see the tremendous possibilities for the Jewish people’s future as the G-d’s Chosen people, in G-d’s Chosen land. Though he understood the road to this future would be challenging and trying, he didn’t consider it a dead end sign, and he refused to say or see otherwise.
This kind of trait, is not meant to be deluding. Yes, when something is wrong, address it, but don’t address it with a nostalgic sigh or cry: “life was so much better before this! Life was so much easier, so much more predictable, and practical!” That kind of attitude does not lead to the continuity, progress, and life Bnei Yisrael was really asking for under all those layers of complaints. The only reason we exist, is because there were people before us who chose to envision life in a different way, and followed through with that vision, full steam ahead. Seeing the good doesn’t happen on it own – we must take responsibility for what we perceive, and when called for, look at things a different way from our colleagues. Life doesn’t get better for us unless we want to see that it can be. Many times, that takes a different, less popular way of looking at things…but isn’t it worth it?