The Israelites have it all set up perfectly. God has freed them from slavery, rescued them from the Egyptians, sustained them in the wilderness, forgiven their foibles, and prepared them for the Promised Land. Now, so close in both location and time to arriving in their new homeland, they send scouts to reconnoiter the land and bring back a report. After all that God has promised and delivered, a positive report and enthusiastic response is almost a foregone conclusion. Right?
Wrong. The majority of the scouts are certain that the mission will fail, and upon hearing this report, the Israelites are despondent. God is infuriated by this national act of mistrust, and consigns the ten pessimistic scouts and everyone who listened to them–that is, everyone–to wander in the wilderness until this generation of doubters dies out. Only those under 20 and those not yet born will get to enter the Promised Land, meaning that the Israelites who cross the Jordan will be a generation of orphans. How could their parents have done this to them?
The Israelite behavior at key moments in their brief history is almost indicative of an illness. Moshe goes to get the Commandments, and the People freak out in his extended absence. They suffer food and water insecurity, and they want to return to Egypt. They hear that the Canaanites are tall, and they are stricken with panic. This is a portrait of a People highly prone to anxiety. Maybe there’s a real illness here waiting to be diagnosed, or at least a lesson about anxiety and its tragic toll? On Shabbat morning, we’ll explore this angle to the story in light of our ongoing struggle to understand anxiety, its cause, and its impact.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,