Keep Calm and Have Faith! by Eve Levy
Hi there Chevra,
I am writing to you while on a visit to my hometown of Toronto. My husband is currently in Israel on the JWRP men’s trip, and I am enjoying watching his excitement via Facebook while I spend some quality time here, with my family.
Toronto has such a large, vibrant Jewish community, and I have had the pleasure of meeting many other JWRP women in this city. I must tell you about the incredible, uncanny feeling of sisterhood when meeting these women. It’s as if we have known each other for years. We have so much to chat about. It’s like we, JWRP sisters, have a secret handshake that surpasses time and place. We just get each other and share something so profound. It is pretty amazing!
Have you ever had the experience where you should have trusted someone, but didn’t? Sometimes, that lack of trust can be detrimental to a relationship. An example:
Wife: “Honey, did you lock the house?”
Husband: “Yes, I did.”
Wife double checks the front door to make sure he did.
I know this is a very simplistic example and not a big deal. Hopefully, most couples would not get their feathers ruffled and just move on, but it is possible this scenario might be planting the seeds of hard feelings.
In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Shlach, the Jewish people are told by G-d about the land of Israel. How excited they should have been! Israel, the promised land, the land of their forefathers, a land known to be flowing with milk and honey. Finally, a land of their own, after being strangers in a foreign land and wandering in the desert for two long years.
To add some context, the Jewish people had been living through a time of open miracles: the clouds of Glory hovered above them and guided them by day, a pillar of fire led them at night, manna for food, clothing that didn't wear out, and more. You would think they had full trust in G-d, as He led them out of Egypt and through the wilderness. You would think G-d already had a good track record in their eyes, no?
Well, unfortunately not. The Jewish people preferred to rely on reports of the meraglim (spies) rather than believing and trusting in G-d’s word.
The parsha begins, “Shlach lecha anashim latur et eretz Canaan…" (Bamidbar 13:2), which means “Send for yourself people to spy out the land….” You can tell by the words that G-d and Moses were slightly disappointed with this request, as if to say, “Go check it out for yourself. I already know it’s a great place. But, you don’t have to take my word for it.”
The Midrash states that it is obvious they needed no spies to enter the Land. It was the doubt that lurked in their minds that made them go down this path. It didn't end well. G-d condemned their lack of emunah (faith), proclaiming that those who initially refused would not enter the Land of Israel later. It takes merit to enter Israel, and those who lacked faith did not have the privilege.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we just stay calm during difficult situations and have faith? Two years ago, I found myself in a tough situation, and my family and I needed to relocate to a new city. I was a complete stress ball (to put it mildly). Day and night, I stressed. I drove my husband crazy and I’m sure my nerves did not help my children either. “What if we don’t fit into the new community? What if we can’t find a decent house within our budget? What if my kids don’t succeed in the school? Etc.”
The "what if’s" were endless. I wish I could have calmed down and realized that G-d was leading me, holding my hand, making sure everything worked out for the best, as it always does. I wished I could have remembered how G-d has always helped us in the past. He would surely not let us down now.
The prophet Isaiah put it so eloquently: “Keep calm and be tranquil; fear not nor let your heart be faint” (7:4).
The famous image described in the Torah is of the meraglim carrying a huge cluster of grapes from their shoulders down to their knees. It took two strong men to carry one cluster of grapes. This image became the logo for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. The spies reported that the produce in the Land of Israel was larger than average, fit for powerful people, possibly giants. The spies diminished themselves, saying “We must have looked like grasshoppers to them.”
Here we go…this sounds familiar: over-thinking, worrying, over-analyzing a situation. A person can easily spin good into bad. A little embellishment of the truth and the information is distorted. We see the distortions in the press all the time. It is very dangerous. Have faith!
Out of the 12 spies, two remained righteous and stayed strong in their faith. One of them is Calev, derived from lev (heart), signifying that he related to the people what was in his heart. He stayed away from the negativity of the other spies and only had words of praise for the Land of Israel.
The other was Yehoshua (Joshua). Moses changed his name from Hoshaia to Yehoshua to imply “May G-d save you from the council of the spies."
These individuals stayed strong when the waters of doubt and fear were cascading all around them.