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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shelach

Parshat Shelach

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Shelach 26th of Sivan, 5776 | July 2, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Shelach
26th of Sivan, 5776 | July 2, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi
The Decoded Message

ויאמר ד' אל משה... ועד אנה לא יאמינו בי בכל האתות אשר עשיתי בקרבו

And Hashem said to Moshe, “… And how long will they not have faith in Me despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst?” (Bamidbar 14:11)

Throughout the month of Kislev, I do something special with my students. After every class, a number of girls get up in front of everyone and tell stories about themselves. They relate incidents that tell of a personal miracle or Divine providence and we are all left indelibly inspired.

On one such occasion when I was speaking before a group of women, towards the close of the lecture, one woman related the following story of herself:

As I was going through some difficult times in my marriage, my life was miserable and dissatisfying. Eventually, my marriage dissolved and ended in a divorce. The immediate week after my divorce, I was a complete wreck. I simply did not know what to do with myself. Remembering that I was turning forty that upcoming Shabbat, I began wondering how I would manage all alone. Looking to go somewhere for Shabbat, I knew I needed to find a friend’s home where Yiddishkeit was exhilarating and the family was full of life and energy. While I would not be able to spend time with an angel, I was looking for something close considering my distressing situation.

After finally finding a friend's house where I felt comfortable, I headed there on Friday. Without exaggeration, I was crying and crying. “Why is all of this happening to me?” I moaned. “It isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense!” Complaining and speaking very cynically about my life’s situation, I was not in the best of moods. Looking at me, the wife of the house said, “What was the Parasha that coincided with your Bas Mitzvah?” Being caught off guard and not even sure what it was, I said, “I have no idea. When I had my Bas Mitzvah, I got away without giving a speech. I do not really remember.” Looking up my date of birth and matching it to the corresponding Parasha, she soon returned to me with the information.

“It was Parashat Shelach,” she said. “Okay, that is news to me,” I replied. “You know,” my friend continued, “why don’t you open up a Chumash to Parashat Shelach and start reading. The Parasha may give you a clue about what to do and lend some insight into your life.” Listening to my friend’s idea, I followed her advice.

As I began to read the Parasha and learn how the Sin of the Spies unfolded, I began thinking, “What did I do wrong? Was it lashon hara?” I could not put my finger on what it was exactly. Nothing made sense to me and I was left unable to connect the dots.

By now, I had spent a decent amount of time staring at the Parasha and was not getting too far. And so, I decided to put aside this little activity and close the Chumash. But as I was about to do so, my friend looked at me. “Don’t close the Chumash; just keep on reading.” Sitting there and feeling forlorn, I decided I would continue reading.

And then I saw exactly what I needed. I reached the Pasuk (14:11) which reads, “And Hashem said to Moshe, “How long will the Jewish people provoke Me, and how long will they not have faith in Me, despite all the signs I have performed in their midst?”

It then hit me. The Sin of the Spies was that they failed to realize that just as Hashem had miraculously provided for them in the desert until now, He surely would have continued to take care of them and ensure their successful entry into the Land of Israel.

As this idea flashed through my mind, I knew what Hashem was telling me, “My dear daughter, just like I took care of you until now; trust Me that I will continue to take care of you…”

Even amidst the most hopeless of predicaments, Hashem comes to our side and reminds us that He is with us. We are never alone, no matter where we find ourselves in life. All that we must do is reflect upon the countless kindnesses and blessings Hashem has showered upon us until this point, and realize that, although it may not be readily apparent, He will continue to do so.

Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser
Riding the Waves of Life

ויהס כלב את העם... ויאמר עלה נעלה וירשנו אתה כי יכול נוכל לה

Caleb silenced the people and said, “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!” (Bamidbar 13:30)

It was a beautiful day on the shores of the beach in Mexico. Clear-blue skies, gorgeous weather and perfect waves for surfing. The average wave that day was between sixteen to eighteen feet. As my friends and I sat on our boards and scanned the horizon to see if any waves were coming our way, we were having the time of our lives. But we were eagerly waiting for something more than merely having a nice time in the cool water.

Well aware that the indication of an oncoming wave was the horizon becoming obscured from vision, we all kept our eyes wide open to see where the next wave would break. We enjoyed the close competition of trying to beat each another to the spot where the wave hit and be the first one to exhilaratingly ride it. But we were all in for a big surprise this time.

All of a sudden, the entire horizon disappeared. Without question, gigantic monster waves were heading right toward us. Looking at me was my best friend. “Let’s get out of here!” he yelled. Turning his board toward the shore, he began paddling. I knew that he didn’t stand a chance against the massive waves. He most definitely would lose the race to the shore against them and end up getting crushed. Having learned that if a large wave is coming in your direction, the best move is to paddle deeper into the ocean and attempt to make your way over the top of the wave before it breaks, I yelled to my friend to turn back around and paddle out. And he listened.

Up ahead of us was another one of my friends. Paddling outward, he was just able to make it over the top of a twenty-five-foot wave and avoid being thrown off his board. He was safe for the moment. Then there was another friend of mine. He too was able to maneuver himself up and about and glide over the enormous wave. He too just barely made it. The next surfer was in a more difficult situation. The wave was already starting to tube, and only seconds remained until it would come crashing down. Fortunate for him, he was able to cut under the wave just in time. It was now time for me and my friend to face the challenge. But we were in no position to ride over the wave or cut through it as they had done before. The lip of the wave was just about to smash the surface of the water.

Thrusting ourselves forward, we just barely positioned the noses of our boards underneath the wave and pushed ourselves through. We made it by a hairsbreadth. Literally.

We were not done though. There were more waves ahead. Continuing to paddle forward, all of us fared better the next time around. One surfer was able to make it over the top of the wave, another one made it through with time to spare, and my friend and I were able to punch through it a little bit better. Over and over again, we all gracefully maneuvered up and around the immense waves.

But then I started to think. “Did I come all the way to Mexico just to paddle over the waves?” And so, I shifted gears. As the last wave inched closer, I spun my board around and started paddling as fast and hard as I could to catch the gigantic wave. The problem was that this wave was around twenty-five feet high. And when trying to ride a big wave, using a bigger board enables you to paddle faster and be let in by the wave. But that was not my case. My board was on the smaller side and I couldn’t move quickly enough to catch the wave. It was only getting steeper and steeper and was not allowing me inside.

I eventually managed to get myself positioned on top of the wave until I was looking down twenty-five feet. And then the wave turned completely vertical. That was my cue. Dropping my board in front of me, I stood up and landed onto it. The only problem was that the wave was still too vertical for me to smoothly make contact with it. And so, I airdropped twenty-five feet.

Landing with a boom on the surface of the water, I had no forward velocity. Fortunately, however, the wave almost immediately lunged toward the shore and took off. The next thing I knew, I was in the tube of a twenty-five-foot wave racing toward the shore. Tucking myself down, I avoided getting hit by the rushing water and tumbling over.

For the next half of a mile, I rode the wave like a giant roller coaster until the shore. When I finally reached the sand, I let out a triumphant shout of “Whoo-hoo!” I had made it. I rode the wave instead of letting it ride me.

In life, the above anecdote plays itself out. The first surfer is the one who upon seeing fear, freezes and runs. He retreats and turns the other way. He recognizes the formidable and crushing waves in his life, and immediately heads for refuge. People who retreat, though, are eventually creamed by life. The waves will one day catch up to them and leave them in a compromised position.

The next surfer acts with extra precaution. He does not run the other direction, but still seeks to ride over the top of the wave and evade challenges. He does not scurry in a panic, but maneuvers with caution and skirts around anything that frightens him. While it is wise to take precautions when dealing with life’s dangers, over-anxiety often hampers our ability to live life to its fullest. Fears about one’s marriage, children, finances or lifestyle are understandable; but to let such worries hinder one’s quality of life is not judicious. Hashem wishes for us to live engaged lives where we completely invest ourselves and eschew the fear of making mistakes or failing.

The third surfer is the individual who rides the waves of life. Every wave that life hurls towards him or her is confronted. Instead of retreating backward or quickly hurdling over the challenge, he paddles forward fully committed. This surfer realizes that there is no place for hesitation or lack of confidence. Getting cold feet at the last moment is dangerous and will not bode well. And when he in fact confronts the wave and rides it, he experiences a thrill like no other. He lives as a champion.

The goal in life is to train ourselves to be like the third surfer. Life’s test is to learn how to cope with our challenges instead of running or hiding from them. By resolutely focusing our attention on confronting our greatest struggles and worst fears, we stand the chance of coming out on top.

Studies have shown that there are five major fears within every human being. They are (in order of most to least common): 1) Fear of Rejection; 2) Fear of Failure; 3) Fear of Lack of Control; 4) Fear of the Unknown; 5) Fear of Pain and Suffering.

Fear of rejection is the uneasiness we have about how others perceive us. Maybe they feel that I do not meet such-and-such standards? Maybe they think I am inadequate and less adept?

Fear of failure is a subjective feeling. It stems from one’s own lack of confidence about performing well or making a significant impact. Failure in this respect refers not to how others judge us, but how we judge ourselves.

Fear of lack of control. Although we have been given the gift of free will and are in a position to make decisions, ultimately Hashem is in control of the world. We must do our best, but in truth, we are not in charge.

Fear of the unknown. No one knows what the future holds in store. We can plan strategically and project what will be, but after all things are considered, there are no guarantees.

Fear of pain and suffering. Whether it be physical, mental or emotional pain, facing discomfort and misfortune is not even a thought we like to ponder.

If you think about it for a moment, you will realize that all five of these fears are within you. Some may be more prominent and obvious, while others may reside in the subconscious. But, either way, they are all undeniably there. Our quest, though, is to uncover which fear is most dominant within ourselves. Once that has been pinpointed, the next step is to discover how to most effectively tackle that fear and overcome it.

Interestingly, demographic studies have corroborated that different countries suffer from these fears in various degrees. Those living in South Africa have been found to be particularly fearful of not being in control. In Los Angeles, fear of rejection was proven to be most dominant. With much emphasis placed on external appearance and opulence, rejection and alienation painfully hurts. In Manhattan, failure was shown to be the number one fear. In a city where business and financial success makes the man, painstaking effort is placed on perfect performance. In England, due to various cultural factors, all five fears were found to be equally present. Evidently, human psychology is influenced by one’s surrounding environment. However, that does not mean we cannot surf through these blockading factors and embrace our fears.

When facing the sea of life, the waves may appear daunting. Many challenges will inevitably come our way, sometimes even unexpectedly, and threaten to knock us down. Numerous worries will cross our minds, depending on where we live and at what stage of life we find ourselves. But, wherever and whenever, we must remember the surfer who rides the waves. We can choose to continuously circumvent the issues, or preempt the danger by rushing to safety, but that which will make us into better people and transform our lives is boldly confronting them. And when we do so, we will see incredible breakthroughs which open new vistas of unknown opportunity. We will be capable of unlocking our inner potential and rising to the peak of self-perfection.

Riding the waves of life will ensure that we will triumphantly reach the shores after a hundred and twenty years as golden champions, and have our masterful mentor, Hashem, pat us on the back with a big smile.

A Short Message From
Dr. Sara Barris

A number of researchers, among them John Gottman, write extensively of a concept called “Turn Towards.” For example, a wife wakes up in the morning and says, “Wow! I had an unbelievable dream!” At that moment, the husband could choose to say, “That sounds nice, but I am not a dream interpreter.” That is “turning the other way.” “Turning towards” involves the husband saying, “I am running a bit late to work, but tell me your dream quickly.” Later in the day, the husband may reiterate to his wife, “I was thinking about your dream and it reminded me of something…” Those few moments where either spouse “turns toward” the other and offers his or her attention is extremely powerful. Showing that you genuinely care, however trivial and short-lived the issue may be, goes a long way when it comes to a marriage.

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