The Sin of the Spies

What exactly did the spies do wrong?

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The Challenge of Shlah

These, to me, are the challenges of Shlah. First, the challenge to perceive the world in all its nuanced complexity-and not reduce it to simplistic either/or, black/white categories. Second, and more central to the parashah, the challenge of really loving ourselves and trusting our instincts, the challenge of not making ourselves into anything less than we truly are (since this would diminish the One in whose image we are created), and the challenge of living with the "anxiety of nothingness" in order to create a new reality.

As long as we see ourselves merely as grasshoppers up against giants, we will set ourselves up for failure. If we want to create anything new and to enter into the Promised Land, then we have no choice but to leap into the unknown, to believe in ourselves, and to trust in God's faith in us. This voice of optimism and hope is what separates Joshua and Caleb from the other scouts. This is what-in spite of a long history filled with good reasons to see ourselves as grasshoppers and to give up-has enabled the Jewish people to continue and to thrive.

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Cantor Josee Wolff

Cantor Josee Wolff is Director of Student Placement and a part time faculty member at the School of Sacred Music, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.