The skyscrapers of fear

At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Moses admonishes the children of Israel, recalling the catalogue of their misdeeds. One of the most scathing of them is, as Moses succinctly puts it, “sulking in the tents” that happened after the return of the twelve tribal representatives sent out to scout the Promised Land. As we know, the spies brought back not only the gigantic fruit but the stories of no less gigantic inhabitants of this land.

In Dvarim 1:28 Moses reminds us that episode, enumerating the various fears experienced by the children of Israel. He speaks about people stronger and taller then Israelites and cities with sky-high walls.

Fear comes in many shapes and disguises. We are afraid of the strange and unknown, of the impenetrable and unbreakable. Of course, as Torah teaches us here, the large portion of these fears has nothing to do with reality. They are created by external agents having an agenda of their own, In the case of the twelve scouts, only Caleb and Joshua give the accurate account of the land, without an unnecessary scare-mongering and using the image of a lowly insect which immediately makes people feel exactly like that.

If somebody tells you that you are nothing it takes a lot of strength to feel differently. If somebody persuades you to fear it takes all the guts to make the first step in the direction of this fear. If we are told that something is impossible it may remain so, protected by the sky-high walls of fear, guarded by frightful giants.

Or it may not be like that at all but we need the courage to take this first step and to believe not the others but ourselves.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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