The Torah relates that the Israelites became fearful of what awaited them in the Promised Land. And so, to reassure the people, Moses sends twelve respected men to go forth and scout out the land and come back with a report.
After 40 days, the scouts return, and they bring back what we might call “a mixed review.” They tell that, yes, the land flows with milk and honey. But the cities are heavily fortified and the people so strong, that it would be arduous, if not fatal, for the Israelites to try to enter and take possession of the country. Ten of the twelve spies go so far as to describe themselves as “grasshoppers” in comparison to the “giants” who inhabit the land.
Only Calib and Joshua speak against that report, as they insists that conquest is possible, if the people will but believe in themselves and in their God. But the people do not listen. In their fear, and in their lack of faith in themselves and in God, they demand to return to Egypt.
In our Jewish tradition, this is a very poignant episode, one that speaks of challenge, and how we confront challenge. It speaks of the power that we have when we believe in ourselves and in God, and how weak we become when we are without faith.
Yes, for most of us, the reality of life is that most of our failures are the result, not of efforts gone wrong, but of efforts never attempted; failures and disappointments to which we destine ourselves even before we try.
Stephen Covey was an educator and author. I like his observation: “Just as we develop our physical muscles though overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by confronting and overcoming challenges and adversity.”
For all of us, I trust that there is something that we might equate with a so-called “Promised Land.” A hope, a goal, a challenge that spells greater fulfillment and more significant living. The call of the Torah this week is that we find within ourselves the courage and the faith to take those steps that only we can take for ourselves.