“I am not afraid, for God is with me. I was born to do this”— Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc uttered these immortal words as she was setting out on her journey to battle the English army. This was a woman with bitachon, with faith.
This week’s parsha Shlach deals with sending spies as the Jews are about to embark on a difficult conquest, much like the aforementioned 16 year old Joan of Arc. The episode of the spies ultimately ends in disaster. They return with a fearful report which subsequently leads to the entire generation dying out in the wilderness. This episode is the focal point of Sefer Bamidbar. Up until this point, the Jews are preparing to enter the land of Israel and conquer it from the enemies living in it. Now with their morale dashed by the leaders of the generation, they are destined to dig their own graves and wait to die out.
How could things go so wrong, so quickly? Many factors contributed to this debacle. One factor could be related to the morale of the leaders that influenced the people, the opposite of Joan of Arc. At the end of the spies’ report to the nation, they said “we were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so we were in their eyes” (Numbers 33:13). They thought that they were very lowly and so they couldn’t win.
What a colossal mistake! The leaders did not have bitachon in Hashem, that God would fight for them as we are later told in sefer Devarim. But they made another mistake as well.
If we take a look at the Haftarah, we see that their assumption about the morale of the Canaanites was also incorrect. We fast forward around 40 years, when the Jews are once again going into the land of Israel. Yehoshua sends spies, and this time instead of assuming the Canaanite mindset, they actually ask and speak to a Canaanite. This is a great lesson in itself. If you want to know how someone feels about something, just ask them. If you read the account from our parsha carefully, you will see the spies never actually speak to anyone on the ground, they just assume they were seeing them as ants.
When the spies actually speak to a Canaanite woman, she tells them the people are scared, that their hearts melted when they heard about krias Yam Suf and the other victories of Am Yisrael (Josh. 2:9-11). She then expresses amazing bitachon and says Hashem will fight your battles and win. Her name is Rachav, which can mean wide or expansive. She has a growth mindset. She sees possibilities where the spies were very narrow. They only saw the problems. That’s one of the main messages behind Joan of Arc and Rachav: to have bitachon in Hashem and bitachon in yourself. Have faith and belief in the possibility of this growth mindset.
That’s my berakha for you this Shabbat. We should all have this growth mindset and not think about the problems like the spies. We should think about the possibilities like Rachav and Joan of Arc. Shabbat Shalom.
This essay is part of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s weekly parsha wisdom. Each week, graduates of YCT share their thoughts on the parsha, refracted through the lens of their rabbinates and the people they are serving, with all of us.