Do you follow the crowd? When a topic is trending on Twitter or everyone is talking about the
great new restaurant, do you have to be in on it? Do you have to see the movie that has all the
buzz? Or do you decide for yourself? Do you follow the newspaper critics? Or do you have faith in your own ideas and opinions? In other words do you have the courage of your convictions?
This week’s Torah portion Shelach-Lecha describes a scenario when following the in-crowd’s
opinion caused the Israelites a great #failureoffaith.
Moses sends a band of 12 tribal leaders to cross over into the Promised Land to take a look around, to map the topography, to check out the locals and to be able to plan for their settlement in the Promised Land.
The spies make their way on foot and they behold the bounty of the land. They even bring back proof of the harvest as they cut down a fruit laden vine and bring it back to camp. This is the evidence that the land is overflowing ready to feed and sustain the Israelites just as their covenant with God will sustain them spiritually.
But 10 of the spies despite the evidence of great bounty lose their faith. Perhaps they worry that they won’t be able to conquer the land and they spread lies about their prospects to defeat the local inhabitants. Only one –Caleb challenges their conventional thinking. Only Caleb who was part of the group of 12 sent ahead to scope things out speaks up challenging their “group think”. Their fears and their lack of faith are evident and they have made that the trending topic among the Israelites.
It is this lack of faith and overwhelming fear that so disappoints God and Moses and Aaron. The people of Israel are easily swayed. For over a year God has demonstrated time and again great miracles, from the plagues that descended upon Egypt to the splitting of the Red Sea, the presentation of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai and providing food and water, manna and quail in the desert. God was present in the pillar of smoke that guided their journey by day and the pillar of fire by night. And yet how easily the Children of Israel are whipped into a frenzy of faithlessness and fear.
It is this faithlessness that determines that this group of Israelites is simply not ready for the responsibilities that will be theirs in the Promised Land. God hands down the verdict that this generation with its vivid memories of Egypt and their lack of belief and their inability to challenge the status quo would never be able to conquer and settle the Promised Land.
In our day and time we ought to learn that it takes great faith to challenge the status quo. It takes courage for sure but it also takes great faith to challenge the trending thinking, or accepted wisdom of the day. But it is this kind of courage and faith that are hallmarks of Jewish life. May our faith increase and deepen and give us the strength to speak the truth and challenge the oft repeated lies that surround us each and every day.