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Shelach 5781 ~ June 4, 2021

When I was 10 years old, a new color TV sat in my living room. It wasn’t ours; we still had black and white. It was being donated to the Baycrest Centre in Toronto, a place for seniors to live, to receive medical treatment, and it was where many decades later my mother would breathe her last breathe in the new hospice wing. Our home was the gathering to raise the money to pay for the TV on that Sunday afternoon.  I was mesmerized by the new coverage of the Six Day War. It gave me my Israel identity that has taken me to Israel on teen tours, as a USY Israel Pilgrimage leader and a year of study in Rabbinical School.  Let me share with you a strange midrash about the war.  

After the Six Day War, the American military were intrigued to discover the secret ingredient which allowed the Israeli pilots to knock-out an unheard of 90% of the Egyptian airplanes. The investigation examined every conceivable aspect of the pilots' lives -- even the most personal and secret. Any conceivable difference was investigated: Did they have pets? How many times a week did they shower? After the results were collated, the Americans published their report: There was absolutely no identifiable pattern to differentiate between Israeli pilots and American...with one exception said the report jokingly: The Israeli pilots all had brit milah. But the joke was really on the American military -- they had indeed discovered the Israeli secret weapon without realizing it, because the Midrash tells that Abraham stands at the gate of Gehinom and prevents anyone who has a brit milah from entering.

In this week's Torah reading, G-d tells Moses that the time has come for the Children of Israel to prepare to enter the Promised Land. Before they go in, they may if Moses chooses, send scouts into the land to determine the best approach to enter the land. Seems like a good idea to Moses and so he sends in twelve individuals from different tribes, all leaders in their own right, with the task of scouting out the land. Instead of determining the correct path to take, they come out with a feasibility study, one which undermined the basic principles of going into the land. For them it was better to return to Egypt, give up G-d and the Torah, and become slaves, rather than make any attempt to enter the land. Ten of them declare: We came unto the land ... and surely it flows with milk and honey." The land is prosperous look at the fruits that it bears, the grapes which we bring you back attest to the fact. On the other hand, "the people that dwell in the land are strong." Seems like their minds were made up before they went into the land, that unless they would just walk in and be treated to Shangri- La, then it was a mistake.

Two spies come back with a report that the land is plentiful. However, instead of taking the direct path of the other spies, they go off on their own and tour the sites. They go to Hebron and see the Cave of Machpelah, where the Patriarchs are buried. Perhaps they swam at Ein Geidi. When Moses was given the option to scout out the land, the word used wasלתור  (la-tur) . Go and study the land. One group went and performed a superficial visit, the other actually, using a play on words "toured the land." They were the first Jewish tourists in Israel. They said, that while the land was inhabited it was conquerable.

Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk asks the question, "did the ten spies lie? Did they make up what they told the people? Obviously not; they had told the people exactly what they had seen. What, then was their sin? The answer is that not everything which is not a lie is the truth. The truth is not necessarily as things appear, but stems from the depths of the heart from the sources of one's faith. Truth and faith go hand in hand, and a person does not acquire truth easily by a superficial glance."

Imagine what could have happened, for example, if the American military took the study of the Israeli pilots seriously? Either they would accept only circumcised candidates as pilots, or they might have circumcised every individual who became a pilot. But what they would have missed goes beyond surgical procedure, to that of the circumcised heart...the faith which the pilots had in God and in themselves, as they prepared to fly.

As a new Israeli unity government seems to be closer to forming and being sworn in, we pray that they too will work together with the precision of the Israeli Air Force to create a vision for the State of Israel that will bring pride to not only Israel, but to the Jewish people through the world. May they find the honor of the two spies who understood.

 

 

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782