This week's portion: compassion and fear
June 06, 2007
This week, in Shlakh-Lekha, we read about the scouts the Israelites send into the land of Canaan, and the troubling scene that arises when they bring back a report steeped in negativity and fear.
In this week's d'var at Radical Torah, I read this story as one about childhood and maturation -- and about how a parent might respond to the discovery that her child just isn't ready for the next big new thing:
We have all had moments of feeling that the world we inhabit is too big, too complicated -- that the task at hand is too overwhelming to face. The Israelites are like children, facing a challenge that's more than they can bear.
And oh, God is disappointed. God was ready to send us off to school, to new learning and new adventures, but after one glance into the tiled halls with their echoing lockers we went running back and begged to be allowed to stay home where we felt safe. (Beyond that -- if we read the parting of the sea as a kind of breaking of the waters, our emergence from the Narrow Place of Mitzrayim as a kind of birth, the Israelites wanted to return to the womb!) Poor God -- learning the hard way that children can't be forced to develop according to any pre-established timetable. God wanted us to mature, to grow into the future God had imagined for us, but we aren't there yet.
If we read this text in this way, what lessons does it offer? What is Torah telling us about how to relate to fear -- our own, and that of those around us? Read my meditations on those questions here: Compassion and fear.