Monday, September 27, 2021

In this week’s parsha of Shelach we notice an interesting contrast. There were the scouts from the parsha that Moshe sent out and then there were the scouts in the haftarah that Joshua sent out. They both saw the same Land of Israel, the same challenges and the same opportunities. The original meraglim/scouts had a doom and gloom attitude, though. They expected to fail, and therefore did so. The scouts that Joshua sent out, though, expected God’s favor and knew they would be successful. They planned for success and their expectations were met. They entered the future Land of Israel and easily conquered it.

Sometimes we need to see our lives as being set just like thermostats. If we set our aspirations on “low,” we will achieve less. If we set our expectations on “high,” we will achieve more. The Gemara (Makkot 10b) tells us the famous proverb that we are exactly led upon the path that we desire to travel.

Periodically I take refresher motorcycle safety courses. The course is devised to challenge even the most experienced driver. We are taught how to handle various emergency driving situations. The common theme that is taught in many of these exercises is that the motorcycle drives wherever you set your sights. If we look down and stare at the debris in the road, we will end up falling down. If we keep our sights on our destinations and keep our heads up, we can make seemingly impossible turns and end up in the right place.

The lesson to be learned from the meraglim/scouts is similar to the lesson to be learned from the motorcycle safety class experience. If we keep our eyes only on the debris and challenges that cross our way, we end up falling and failing. If we keep our eyes upon the ultimate goal, keeping our heads up despite the obstacles that may challenge us, staying focused and optimistic on where we need to go, we will surely be successful.

We need to have faith that we will surely end up where we need to be. Yosef, for example, had a vision that he would be a great leader one day. When he was thrown in the pit, sold by his brothers and later imprisoned, he did not let it shake his faith and vision in the future. He knew that his divine destiny would lead him to the correct destination in life.

Divine destiny, to use another analogy, is like the GPS systems in our cars. We all end up where we are supposed to be. Every time we go off course or experience a challenge such as a traffic jam or accident we hear the GPS voice announce: “Recalculating the route.” No matter how far off we may travel, we always end up in the right place. Similarly in life, we need to have faith in Divine providence and believe that no matter how many challenges may cross our path we will end up at the correct destination for us.

May we learn from the parsha to not be as cynical as Moshe’s scouts were but to have the faith of Joshua’s scouts. We need to expect good tidings and Divine favor to come our way. We may have challenges in life and go off course at times. However, we need to keep our heads held high, set our expectation thermostats at “high,” and trust Hashem to lead us where we are supposed to be. When we have our skeptical thoughts we need to repeat in our minds, “Recalculating the route.” In the merit of maintaining such a positive attitude and faith, may Hashem bless us with success in all our endeavors.

Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist in private practice. He is vice president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected]

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