It’s time for a new pair of glasses with a new prescription, and that started me thinking about this week’s Torah reading, Shelach Lecha. It begins with God telling Moses to send 12 men, one from each of the tribes, to see or scout out the land that the Israelites were about to enter. Moses gives these men detailed instructions about what to look for, and they all return with the same information, but the lenses through which they see that information are very different.
While all 12 of the men returned with the same report, 10 of them not only put a negative spin on it, they stirred up dissent and discontent among the people, angering God and leading to the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. The other two “scouts,” Caleb and Joshua, had faith that they would prevail, and were the only ones of their generation who would enter the land of Canaan, The prophetic reading that goes along with this parashah is from the book of Joshua.
Taking these readings together–Numbers 13:1-14:10 and Joshua 2:1-24–I see an interesting commentary about how our minds work, and the lenses through which we see the world.
The 10 men in the Torah reading–who saw themselves as grasshoppers–perhaps lacked self-confidence or self-esteem, even though they were leaders of their respective tribes. They saw the negatives, and convinced themselves and others that it would be impossible to conquer the land. Joshua and Caleb viewed the same information through a different lens. They agreed that it wouldn’t be easy, but that God would make them victorious. As had been happening since before the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, the people were losing faith in God.
In the second chapter of Joshua, two meraglim–scouts or spies–are sent with the simple instruction to scout or dig up information about the land. The text tells us nothing about what they might have found out, other than a fascinating contrast; the Canaanite people were the ones who were now afraid, because they knew that the God of Israel would prevail. What ensues in this chapter (the haftarah for this Shabbat) is a discussion between the two spies and Rahab, the inn-keeper who protects them in return for assurance that she and her family would be protected.
Even the TaNaKh has different lenses!
We go through life looking at things through our unique lenses; we “see” the same things, but understand them differently, and that tends to determine how we’ll act and behave, whether we’ll move forwards, backwards or stay where we are. We won’t always see things clearly, and just like my eyeglass prescription, as we move through life, just as the Israelites moved through the wilderness, our perceptions of what we see and how we interpret it changes and grows.
How do you see the world?