As the Israelites are on the verge of entering the Promised Land, they demand of Moses that he send scouts forth to report on what awaits the people. After forty days, the scouts return. They relate that yes, “the land flows with milk and honey.” But the cities are heavily fortified and the people so strong that it could prove catastrophic for the Israelites to try to enter and take possession of the country.
The people become overwhelmed with fear and demand to return to Egypt. The Torah relates that God becomes disheartened with the people and that He threatens to destroy them. But Moses pleads on the people’s behalf, and finally God relents. But God decrees as punishment for their lack of faith and courage that this generation will not be given the right to enter the land of Israel. The next generation, raised in freedom and possessing both courage and faith will enter the land.
I think this is one of the most important “stories” of our Torah. It speaks of challenge, and how we confront challenge. It speaks of the power that we have when we believe in ourselves and in God’s ability to enable us to realize our hopes and visions. And it speaks of our capacity for great weakness also, when we are without faith and courage.
It has been pointed out that most of the “failures” that we experience in life are not the result of efforts gone wrong. Rather, they are the result of efforts that were never attempted.
Whatever the “Promised Land” means to each of us, may we find within ourselves the courage and the faith to take those steps forward that only we can take for ourselves.
Rabbi David Greenberg