FRIDAY, June 8th
The central drama of Parshat Sh’lach is the (in)famous story of the sending of a delegation of 12 princes to scout out the land of Israel. Upon their return, ten of these princes ominously warn of the powerful giants and fortified cities that will confront the Israelites upon their entry into the land, stating flatly that it is impossible to go up to this land where such a people dwells.
Rabbi Kalonymos Kalman Shapira, the Piazetzna Rebbe, in his commentary on the parsha Eish Kodesh, points out that when Kalev responds to the warnings of the other princes, he doesn’t argue with them about the facts—he doesn’t say “oh, those Anakites aren’t that strong.” He doesn’t say “the people dwelling there aren’t going to fight us.” He simply says, “עָלֹ֤ה נַעֲלֶה֙ וְיָרַ֣שְׁנוּ אֹתָ֔הּ כִּֽי־יָכ֥וֹל נוּכַ֖ל לָֽהּ׃ Let us go up and we will surely inherit it, for we surely can attain it.” He doesn’t offer rational reasons. He doesn’t attempt to minimize the obstacles or the challenge. He simply says, in essence “we can do it.” The Piazetzna writes that sometimes when we are faced with overwhelming challenges, the appropriate response is not to go around looking for a natural path to overcoming them, for when no natural means of overcoming can be found, this will only cause us to lose faith. Rather, the Piazetzna writes, the correct response when no natural means of victory presents itself is simply to trust in God, and do as much as we can do, trusting that God will take care of the rest.
When I think about the elusive prospects for peace in Eretz Yisrael, it is easy to become disheartened. It is hard to imagine what policies America or Israel could adopt that would bring about peace, when Hamas remains explicitly committed to Israel’s destruction, and the leadership of Fatah continues to find pretext after pretext not to sit down at the negotiating table. The search for a path towards peace within the bounds of nature can easily lead to loss of hope, loss of faith that peace is possible. That loss of hope is perceptible in the pessimism we hear from every corner of the Israeli political spectrum.
However, when I take the words of the Eish Kodesh to heart, I remember that while you and I might be limited to what is possible in nature, God is not. If no natural path to peace is available, we must trust that when we do everything in our power for the sake of peace and security, when we do so in faithfulness and righteousness, then God will open up a path through means natural or supernatural, and peace will prevail in the land.
Rabbi Garth Silberstein