Parashat Shlah

A Focus on the Here and Now

The nostalgic memories we have of the past may seem appealing--but they require closer inspection.

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The events of the Exodus--and even the revelation of Sinai and the various encounters in the desert--seem to be insufficient to impress the Israelites. They are in a "What have You done for us lately?" mood. The people rebelled against Moses and against God.

Moses shows great compassion for the people and asks God to forgive them. God agrees but not without punishment. The people who could not embrace the future would not be entitled to see it.

Nostalgia for Days Gone By

Perhaps we are at a similar point in the journey of the Jewish people in this land of promise called America. There are those who see a future that is untenable and wish to return to the past. And others see the reality that confronts us and choose to embrace it fully.

The nostalgic memories we have of the way things used to be may seem appealing on the surface, but, as the title of this portion shows, some things require closer inspection for complete understanding. When we examine our memories more closely, we can learn a great deal more. Things may not have been as rosy as we remember them to be, and we may be better served by focusing on the present.

We should heed the important lessons that this portion provides through its depiction of the actions of Caleb and Joshua and apply them to our own lives today. By refusing to become bogged down in halcyon memories of bygone days and focusing instead on the here and now, we can work to create a more optimistic future for us all. It remains our only option.

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Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.