Parshat Shelach: Goodness as the Promised Land

“And they told him [Moses] and said, ‘We came unto the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.” (Numbers 13:27)

The premises of the Land of Israel are clear in the Torah. It is the land God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an inheritance for their descendants. It is a land that flows with milk and honey, and its produce is good for being filled and satiated, and for that we “thank God for the good land He gave us”. No one disagrees with those premises, including the spies Moses sent to explore the land as we read in this weekly portion.

Based on these premises we realize the goodness of this land. Hence we deduce that God gave us a land of goodness in order to live goodness as the means and the end of our existence in this world. This is a dynamic goodness, for goodness also gives its fruits greater and better than the produce of other lands. As we live in, with and for goodness, also goodness comes out of what we are, have and do as their fruits.

This is part of what our sages mean when they say that a good action leads to another good action, for indeed one good deed blossoms and sprout good tidings for us and for others who share our goodness.

“Howbeit the people that dwell in the land are fierce, and the cities are fortified and very big, and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.” (13:28)

In the Chassidic mystic tradition, the light concealed by the darkness is far stronger than the light already revealed, similar to the concentrated light in the sun’s corona during an eclipse. Such goodness inherent in the Promised Land was also concealed by the evil of the peoples who inhabited it in the times of our forefathers before settling on it.

As our sages revealed to us, those peoples represent the negative traits and trends in ego’s fantasies and illusions we express through haughtiness, wrath, envy, coveting, lust, indifference and indolence as the seven Canaanite nations God commanded us to conquer, defeat, subjugate and eliminate from the Promised Land.

This means that as we eliminate arrogance and envy, we subjugate lust and coveting by directing them to pursue more goodness; while we conquer and defeat indifference and indolence by becoming more generous and supporting to those in need of goodness.

“Amalek dwells in the land of the South; and the Hittite, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanite dwell by the sea, and by the side of the Jordan’.” (13:29)

Ironically, the more fearsome of Israel’s enemies in those times “dwelt” in the areas that our sages relate to the highest expressions of goodness. The “south” is usually linked to righteousness (while the “north” connected to wickedness), the “mountains” to strong and unmovable principles or beliefs, and lands close to bodies of water are related to the ways we experience and express emotions and feelings related to the material world.

Overcoming negative traits, trends, habits, attachments, obsessions and additions may not be an easy task for the average human being either Jewish or Gentile. For some people those are real giants able to crush any reasonable intention or determination to defeat them, and thus we understand why only two of the heads of the Twelve Tribes of Israel were willing to engage against such enemies.

“And Caleb quieted the people toward Moses, and said, ‘We should go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it’. But the men that went up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us’.” (13:30-31)

As we have referred to in our other commentaries on this Torah portion in this blog, the sin committed by the heads of the other ten Tribes was inflicting their own fears, weaknesses and negligence on their peoples. Worse than this sin was to disbelieve God’s promise to help them fight those wars and questioning His power to destroy their enemies, after witnessing the ten plagues, the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and other miracles performed by Him as proofs of His love for Israel.

In conclusion, God continuously fights our moment to moment wars as long as we do our part with our willingness, determination and commitment. Even more so when those wars are against our own fears and weaknesses to conquer, defeat, subjugate and eliminate beliefs and feelings of lack out of ego’s materialistic fantasies and illusions. As we fight our own negativity we are embraced by the high traits, qualities and standards goodness demands from all levels, aspects, dimensions and expressions of human consciousness.

We confront our own negative traits and trends with the strength of love’s ways and attributes, and God’s love joins us to overcome and prevail in order to live in our final redemption and dwell in the Promised Land as the Messianic era we have been longing since the Exodus from Egypt.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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