Parashat Shlah

Very, Very Good

We need to develop greater understanding of our role on this planet.

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The ten negative spies did not recognize the significance of this place. Their report is like the attitude of a person who looks only at the shell of the world, its outer nature, without stopping to see what is buried underneath. Such a person blunders through life without looking outside of his/her box, just following the behavior of those around them.

They try to wash down their underlying unease at the barrenness they see with careless over-consumption and mistreatment of the earth's resources, without stopping to ask, "What is this place, really? Why am I here? What have I been longing for all along?"

Caleb, on the other hand, did recognize the deeper significance of what was before him. His and Joshua's positive reports are the words of those who looked into the world and saw not the terrifying giants that are before them, but the inner nature and beauty of the world back to the original source of Creation.

Finding the Divine

This is what Rebbe Nachman means when he states, in Lekute Mohoran, that we must look for the innate Divine wisdom and radiance that lies at the heart of, and animates, every tiny piece of the created world.

The hidden message in the words of Caleb and Joshua might just be the answer to today's environmental woes. If we could only realize and recognize that inner nature of the world like the positive spies, we would be naturally, irresistibly compelled to live our lives in a way that respected God's creation, especially treating with love and awe the natural resources we have the privilege of using.

As said earlier, the juxtaposition of the story of the spies and the instruction for the sacrifices reminds us not to despair at what we have done so far to the planet. Although the damage we have done requires bigger and more urgent solutions each day, it is never too late for us to wake up. It is never too late to change our behaviors, both personally and nationally.

Humanity's lack of understanding of its role in the world and its relationship to God is at the core of the problems facing our planet. Like the spies, all that is required of us is to recognize and internalize that God's creation is indeed very very good.

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