Veterans' Shabbat Dvar Torah: Sh'lah Lekha
Lisa Goldman on Friday, June 22, 2012 at 11:00:00 am
Dvar Torah for Sh’lah L’kha
By Lisa Goldman
Shabbat Shalom. Today’s parsha is Sh’lah L’kha. When the parsha begins, the Israelites, who have left slavery and Egypt behind, have been traveling toward the land promised to them by God. They are nearing Canaan, and Moses sends 12 spies, one representing each tribe to investigate the land they have been promised and the people currently inhabiting that land. The 12 are gone for 40 days, and when they return they make a report to Moses, Aaron and the people. All agree that the land is bountiful- flowing with milk and honey- but 10 of the spies report that the men who dwell in the land are powerful-giants in fact and- stronger than they. Their feeling is that they will surely be defeated if they try to take the land. The Israelites are frightened by this report and begin to wonder why they had ever left Egypt, and even suggest returning there. Only two of the so called spies were of a different opinion. Although they had witnessed the same things as the other 10, Caleb and Joshua had come to a different conclusion. They believed that if the Lord were pleased with them, he would bring them into the land and give it to them. They told the people not to be afraid and said they would be protected only they must not rebel against the Lord. The Israelites reject God’s instructions to enter the land.
Needless to say, God is angry with the Israelites for not trusting in him and as punishment- he states that the slave generation will never set foot in the Promised Land. Only Caleb and Joshua will be allowed to enter, as they never lost faith in him and were ready to fulfill their sacred mission to enter the land. The Israelites are condemned to wandering the desert for 40 years.
I suppose it is understandable that the Israelites were frightened. They had been slaves for a long while and most likely had a slave mentality and a poor image of themselves. So what made Caleb and Joshua feel capable of conquering the peoples that lived in the Promised Land? What makes some people able to accept a difficult challenge while others sit back in fear? Perhaps it is the ability to see the bigger picture- they had a vision of the world – not as it was – but as God had promised it could be. They sought to fulfill God’s plan and they therefore saw the difficulties not as obstacles but as challenges to be met. And for that vision they were rewarded.
This parsha is very appropriate for a Shabbat where we are honoring both our veterans and members of our congregation who participated in our 6 month UJA sponsored project Serving Those Who Served Our Country.
For our veterans, although they may have been afraid- had to be like Caleb and Joshua. They knew that their mission would be difficult, almost impossible, but they understood that to fail to go forward and fight would endanger the world as they knew it. The plan, and the stakes were bigger than they were and they had to be brave and had to embrace that decision. They had to trust in God and in the leaders of the free world that they would lead them in the right direction to victory.
We honor our veterans for their bravery, their dedication to their country and their refusal to give up against, as Winston Churchill called it “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.” Many soldiers did not return from World War 2, but those that did came to be known as the Greatest Generation, and they taught by example how to make the world a better place.
We are also here to honor and thank the volunteers who spent time during this year working on the UJA sponsored project- Serving those Who Served our Country. Students, teens and adults visited the veterans living in the residential facility at the VA in Montrose NY. Others prepared gifts for the veterans and helped with the Veterans Day dinner, which was a great success. We are all very busy. There are so many people in need of help. Some people look at the world around them and say it is too much, the problems are too big, I am too small to make a difference. So, out of a feeling of inadequacy, or of being overwhelmed, they ignore the very real need out there. But others, like our volunteers, see the same situations and problems and instead of saying there is nothing I can do, I am just one person, they say I will step up, I will accept the challenge, I can do something to make things better.
Like Caleb and Joshua, our volunteers see the possibility of a better world and have made the world better by simply acting on that possibility. They have done small simple things like singing, chatting and holding hands with, veterans who bravely served their country and now rarely see a visitor. If the volunteers have made the veterans feel remembered and valued, even for a little while, they have followed God’s commandment to repair the world and they teach others, by example how to be better human beings.
So, thank you for making this project a success. We hope that when the opportunity presents itself to offer assistance, to rise to a challenge, to follow a vision for what can be, we will all be brave and will step forward to make the vision a reality.
by Lisa Goldman