Weekly Words of Torah: Parashat Shelach Lecha
To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism
This Shabbat, we read Parashat Shelach Lecha, which teaches many powerful lessons from an unfortunate situation. Moses sends out a spy from each tribe of Israel to scout out the Promised Land, the Land of Israel, the land of Canaan, to give the people a feel for the land they will be entering. Ten of the spies come back with a doomsday report – the people are giants; we are all doomed! However, two spies, Caleb ben Yefuneh, and Yehoshuah bin Nun, do not follow the crowd, and their report is totally different than the other ten spies. They come back carrying a stick with luscious grapes (think the symbol of Israeli tourism several thousand years later). Caleb and Yehoshua (Joshua) agree that the land is truly flowing with milk and honey.
The lessons to all of us? To be a leader – often you cannot just follow the crowd, and go along with what the majority states. You need to speak for yourself, and stand firm to your own beliefs, even if there may only be one other, or no one, who agrees with you. To be a leader, you need to take a stand, even if not popular, even if a minority opinion.
Furthermore, the concept of a minyan, a quorum of ten needed to recite certain prayers during services, such as reciting the Kaddish, reading Torah, saying the Kedushah, is extrapolated from the concept of the ten spies that Moses sent to scout out the land of Canaan. When the ten spies returned and issued a report concluding that it was not a conquerable land, G-d was extremely disappointed with their lack of faith in God’s abilities. God then turned to Moses and Aaron, telling them: “How long will this evil ‘assembly’ provoke [the Jewish nation] to complain against Me, God?”
From here, it is deduced that an “assembly” is comprised of ten people. It is always a curious concept to me, that out of this very disheartening behavior of the ten spies, and behavior that showed a clear lack of faith in God, such an important concept, ten people needed for a minyan, is learned. Hence, what can we learn? Even from the most difficult and negative situations, sometimes positive, can be learned. Like the Pop artist Pitbull sings in his song “Give Me Everything,” “Take a picture of me with a Kodak; Took my life from negative to positive; I just want y’all know that; And tonight, let’s enjoy life.” We can learn the lesson, from the story of the spies, or from Pitbull’s song “Give Me Everything”: Make a negative into a positive!
WWOT, Weekly Words of Torah will be a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our new Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here.