Monday, June 23, 2008

The Princes and The Giants (Shlach Lecha)

Once upon a time, there lived 12 princes. Each of the princes ruled his own little kingdom, but none of the princes was as powerful as the king who ruled the whole country. One day, the king decided that it was time for the princes and all the people of their kingdoms to move to a new, better kingdom with bigger palaces and gigantic fruit trees. Before they agreed to move to this new place, the princes wanted to see it for themselves. So they set out on a journey. When they reached the new kingdom, the 12 princes were frightened by the giants that they saw there, so they ran to hide in a nearby cave. Unfortunately, what they had thought was a cave was actually the enormous rind of a pomegranate that the giant’s daughter had thrown on the ground. But, the giant’s daughter was a good, conscientious girl, and she remembered that her mother and father had taught her that she should never throw trash on the ground, only in the trashcan. So, she picked up the huge pomegranate rind, with the 12 princes still hiding in it, and she threw it away in the trash. The princes quickly scrambled out of the pomegranate rind and out of the trashcan, and hurried back to the king. When they reached the king, the princes told him that they could never live in the new kingdom. The giants who already lived there were much too big and strong for them. So the king, the twelve princes, and all of their people wandered around in the desert for forty more years, looking for a new place to live.

The princes saw the giants, and their fear of the giants clouded their vision so that they couldn’t see anything else. Because they were worried about the giants, the princes failed to see the enormous fruit all around them. Since they didn’t notice the fruit, they didn’t realize the benefits that they could derive from it. They didn’t stop to think about how such lush vegetation could feed and shelter their families and the families of their people.

Sometimes, we are just like the princes. It’s hard to see the bounty around us when we are scared and our emotions turn our heads so we are looking elsewhere. But even in those moments when we most want to run away from the challenges in front of us, the land in front of us is filled with pomegranates as big as caves and clusters of grapes so big that it takes two people to carry them.

Out of the twelve tribal leaders, twelve scouts, that Moses sent into the land of Canaan, only Yehoshua (Joshua) and Caleb were able to see past the fear of the giants, the current inhabitants, to the bounty of the land. But, their voices were not strong enough to counter the negative report brought back by the rest of the tribal leaders sent to scout the land. Even the insight of true visionaries has trouble competing against mass hysteria.

How can we guard against our own hysteria and fears to uncover the bounty that was in front of us all along? We do it all the time. Many, if not all, of us in this room have had our own personal moments of acting like Joshua and Caleb. We have made trips to Israel when the American mass media is busy scaring people away with stories of terrorist attacks. We have faced up to our own personal fear of needles to give blood for someone else. We have done things that have taken all of our courage just to put one foot in front of another to go somewhere new. When we do these things, we find the beauty of Israel, the satisfaction of helping, the pride of accomplishment.

I bless us all that we continue to have such moments in our lives; that in the coming days and weeks, we all find ways to see the bounty of the land without being blinded by the giants.

Shabbat shalom.

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