Shelach Lecha contains the well-known story of the scouts sent into the Land of Israel by Moses to check out the territory in preparation for the conquest. One scout was sent from each tribe. Although they all saw the same thing, not everyone agreed on what it all meant. Ten of the scouts were afraid and said that even though the land was everything that had been promised, it would be too difficult to conquer. The other two had faith that God—who had already wrought Ten Plagues on Egypt, split the sea, and fed them manna—would not fail them now. Unfortunately, the voices of the ten won out and the Children of Israel were made to wander in the wilderness for forty years until a new generation arose in its place.
Shelach Lecha can be a reminder to all of us about the proverbial “voices” in our heads. They can often be like the ten scouts, providing a million reasons why we cannot do this or that. They are the voices that traffic in fear, negativity and stagnation. They tell us we cannot get that new degree, lose that weight, find a new job, or even just be happy. How often do we listen to the other two voices? Do we look back and remind ourselves of the blessings that are a part of our lives? If we take the time to really listen to the voices of positivity in our heads and in our lives, we may not only find ourselves avoiding forty wasted years, but also find ourselves in the midst of a “land of promise.”
I don’t know if you saw the news article from the Washington Post on Wednesday, but there was a distressing article about the amount of trash washing up on remote islands these days. One beach alone, was littered with 414 million pieces of garbage—most of it plastic.
What are we doing to our planet? What are we doing to make it better?
The Torah itself wants us to take care of our home because it’s the only one we have. In the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, God told Adam that the world was his to work and guard. This is not a coincidental use of words. From the very beginning, the Creator made clear that we are to make us of the planet, but we must also see to it that we do so in a responsible way. It needs to be healthy for generations to come.
Our weekly Torah portion, Behar, touches on this same theme. We are introduced to the laws of the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee. During the Sabbatical Year, field were supposed to lie fallow and trees and bushes untended. Does this sound like modern crop rotation techniques today? The Torah tells us that this would occur once every seven year; it is still observed in a modified way in Israel to this day.
We may not be able to observe the Sabbatical Year in the USA (and in fact the mitzvah only applies in the Land of Israel), but there is much more we can do to care for the planet. Remember: reduce, re-use and recycle. Your Mother Earth will appreciate it…and so will coming generations!