Shelah-Lecha

I have been reading the current Torah portion, Shelah-Lacha, Numbers 13:1-15:41. this has always been my favorite, because it deals with such issues as self-esteem and self-respect, issues I’ve dealt with for a lifetime.

God orders Moses to “send men to scout the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelite people.” There was to be one man from each of the Israelite tribes, men of respect in each tribes, to examine the state of the land-is it fertile, are the people there strong or weak, are the cities fortified?  Mosses sends these instructions to the twelve spies, two of them being Caleb, from the House of Judah and Hosea, from the House of Ephraim. (Moses changed the name of Hosea to Joshua, why?)

The spies receive their instructions, and go into the land for forty days. They scout the wilderness from Zin to Rehob, and in to the Negev and through Hebron, to the wadi Eshcol; they cut down a huge cluster of grapes, which they had to carry on a wooden beam. After the forty days, the spies return to the Israelite camp, and report, the does indeed flow with milk and honey, bu the people there are powerful, and the cities are fortified.”

Caleb insisted “We can take them on, we can beat them and take the land!” But only Joshua and Caleb were positive about the outcome, and the majority of the spies said, “we can’t attack these people they’re stronger than we are,” adding-this is the most important part-“we looked like grasshopper to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.”

The Israelites panicked, and rioted against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites scream, “If only we died in Egypt! Let’s go back to Egypt!” Here is their low self-image: the spies, leaders of the people, said their own people looked like grasshoppers, little crawling insects, to their., the leaders’ eyes, and they projected that low self-image as emanating from the people in the land. (That is projection: “I don’t like myself, and so neither does anyone else.”) The spies tell the people that they were grasshoppers compared o the people of the land, instead of trying to boost their self-image, which obviously was at bottom due to being enslaved in Egypt and forced into a slave mentality of feeling inferior.

God threatens to wipe the Israelite nation out due to their disobedience, but Moses tells God, “When the Egyptians, who whose midst you brought these people out, hear of this, they will say that God is powerless to bring these people into the land which he promised them.”  Moses pleads with God to forgive the people, but God says that none of the people of the generation of slavery would enter the land, except for Caleb and Joshua. the entire Israelite nation would remain out of the land for forty years, for each one of the days the scouts reconnoitered the land. How often do our fears and self-limitations keep us from attaining out own “promised land,” the fulfillment of the best we all could be?

The Haforah for the portion is Joshua, second chapter, where he orders a duo of spies to scout out the city of Jericho. the spies enter the house of the harlot Rahab, right on the wall of Jericho. Rahab hides the spies in her house, and the king’s soldiers ask her if she saw them; she tells the soldiers, “The men left, I don’t know where they are, go after them.” Rahab tells the spies, “I know the LORD has given the country to you, because dread of you has fallen upon us, and the inhabitants of the land are quaking before you. e heard of how the LORD has dried up the Sea of reeds for you when you left Egypt,  and what you did to the two Amorite kings.” Rahab, the harlot, knows that God is the only God of Heaven and Earth, and she helps the spies escape over the city walls. (A woman who we would look down on in this day was the hero of the story.)

Have you ever heard the line, “I didn’t know my own strength?”  Do we really know how strong and capable we are? Have we been brainwashed into thinking we are helpless and powerless in changing our predicament? Lord knows I’ve had those feeling lot of times, but I’m resisting them, and finding my strength. I urge you to do the same.

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The High Holy Days

The High Holy Days-Rosh haShona and Yom Kippur-are almost upon us. this is the time when we are called to look at our lives, look at how we behaved in the past year, noted where we dome well as people, and where we need to improve.

this is the time to put our mistakes and errors of the past year behind us, and to forgive ourselves of them, and know we can be better people. To any person I may have offended, I ask your forgiveness; and to all who have offended me, I forgive them.

One practice I have is my Resolutions for Rosh HaShona, like the resolutions I write also for the New Year-and for my birthday and Pesach. Here they are:

I will continue conduct myself with self-live, self-esteem, and self respect. I will not be bound by errors of the past, but continue to improve as a person, to think positively about myself and my life, and challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts.

I will continue such spiritual practices as Torah study, yoga, affirmations, meditation, etc.

I will continue my art and business as a writer, seeking journals, attending writing events, practicing writing, etc. I will continue my activism for my various social and political causes.

I will continue to be loyal to Jewish relation, culture, history, Israel, etc.

Shelah-Lecha

We recently studied the Torah portion Shelah-Lecha, Numbers 13:1-15-41. this is the portion where Moses orders the spies, men respected in the community, “one man from each of their ancestral tribes, each one a chieftain among them,” (13:2) to scout out the territory of the Promised Land, to examine the people and produce therein, and give a full report on what they find. (13:17-20)

For forty days, the spies surveyed the terrain, taking with them a huge cluster of grapes they carry on a wooden beam (the logo for the municipality of Jerusalem) and report back to Moses. (13:21-24)

The spies report that the land is indeed fertile; but, say the spies, “the people who inhabit the country are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large” (13:25-29). Except for two of them-Caleb and Joshua- the spies say, “we cannot attack these people, for they are stronger than we are,” and they add, “we looked like grasshoppers, to ourselves and so we must have looked to them.” (13-25-33) The Israelites, hearing this report, go into hysterics and cry, “We should have stayed in Egypt! Let’s go back to Egypt!” (14:1-4) But the two dissenting spies, Caleb and Joshua, insist, “the land we have traversed is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, He will being us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey.” (14:6-10)

God gets ready to wipe out the entire population for their lack of faith, but Moses pleads with GOD to pardon the iniquity of the Israelites. God does not eliminate the population, but for their lack of faith they are to stay, for forty more years, in the wilderness and are not allowed to enter the Land. (14:11-25)

This portion deals with issues I’ve dealt with forever-of self-esteem and self-confidence. The spies are leaders of the tribes, men of respect, and so the people paid attention to what they said in their report. The spies say that they people don’t have it in them to take on the tribes inhabiting the Land; the spies themselves say “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we looked like that to them,” projecting the low self-image the spies have of themselves. the spies, the leaders of the people, had no self-confidence in themselves or their people. The leaders of the tribes saw  themselves as little crawly insects to be stepped upon. If the “leaders” of the people were so lowly, how much more so the rank-and-file Israelites? To me, these “leaders,” except for Joshua and Caleb, were mis-leaders, destroying the self-esteem and self-worth of the people.

How often have we had some person we have been taught to respect-a parent or a teacher, any authority figure-tell us we’re too damn stupid to make a difference of to attain any goal we have for ourselves? For me, as for others, it was hundreds of times.

Contrast this to the Haftorah portion, the second chapter of Joshua, where Joshua orders spies to infiltrate the city of Jericho, to see how well protected they are. The sex worker Rahab tell the spies how terrified the people of the city are of the Israelites; word of the power of God has reached the people of Jericho.  thus the Israelites did not know their own strength or ability. (Plus, a sex worker, Rahab, someone society teaches us to look down upon, is the hero of this piece.)

We are constantly told of our failings, but do we really know our strengths, our powers? Let us constantly keep looking into ourselves for our power.

The High Holy Days

we are coming upon the High Holy days, Rosh ha-Shona and Yom Kippur-the new year, the time for a new beginning, where we re-evaluate our lives, where we look at what we did right and what we could improve on.

I follow the High Holy Days tradition-IF I have offended or harmed ANY person, I ask that person’s forgiveness. AND, if any person out there has harmed of offended me, I forgive them.

Here are my resolutions for Rosh ha Shona:

I will continue to conduct myself with self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect, thinking more positively about myself and my life.

I will continue to be loyal to my various social and political causes.

I will continue to develop my art and business as a writer, with writing practice, prompts, attending readings and seminars, etc.

I will continue to attend all available avenues of education and cultural advancement, such as classes, galleries, libraries, museums, plays, etc.

I will continue to enter other artistic fields, such as acting, photography, etc.

I will continue to consciously attain downtime, for my rest and recreation.

I will continue to go deeper into my Jewish faith and life.

I will continue to develop my personal relationships.

 

 

 

Pesach

I join the rest of the Jewish world in celebrating Pesach, aka Passover, the celebration of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the crossing the Red Sea, and the marching through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim,” the place of narrowness, of limitation; where do we face limitation in our lives? Where do we limit ourselves? Where do we find ourselves stifled and repressed? What are the rivers we have to cross is order to find our fulfillment, to attain our fullest potential? What would our “promised land” look like, our place of fulfillment?

Let us ask ourselves these questions as we enjoy our Pesach.