Sh’lach L’cha, Numbers 13:1-15:41
Shabbat, June 13, 2015 / 26 Sivan, 5775

Ruben Arquilevich, Executive Director, URJ Camp Newman

Did you know the Israelites were fearful of “giant” inhabitants upon entering the Promised Land? Two weeks ago, our incoming staffers too had their own giant challenges to face. Read Ruben’s drash on how we can welcome the blessings of camp as we contend with our fears. 

Imagine that you are about to enter the promised land.  Have you ever entered a promised land? Where? What kind of land, place, and experience was it?  What did it feel like? What preparation did you have to make prior to entry.

Sh’lach L’cha, this week’s Torah portion, recounts the Israelites on the verge of entering the promised land. They fall short, sentenced to wander the wilderness for 40 years before stepping foot into their destiny.  Israel received a glimpse of a sacred land, a place filled with promise and dreams stemming back to their ancestors; a land flowing with milk and honey, agriculture, natural beauty – it must have looked like our Kibbutz at Camp Newman.   Prior to attempting to enter the land, Moses, upon God’s request, does his due diligence – he appoints one scout from each tribe to investigate the land. All twelve scouts return sharing the news about the wonders of the new land, but many report of large, scary inhabitants that will crush us.  They, along with the masses they report back to, are terrified and argue to journey back to Egypt rather than face these behemoths.   Only the scouts Caleb and Joshua argue to push forward, to no avail.    What happens next?   Israel is relegated to meander in the dessert for 40 years, letting a generation die out, until they enter the land, with Caleb and Joshua.

Lessons learned?

One commentator suggests that Israel was punished for its lack of faith in God. After all the miracles, how could Israel still lack faith in God?   Another commentator suggests that they should be forgiven for their lack of faith because their decision was based on fear (of the giants), but that the real sin was that they were too focused on what these giants might think of them (rather than following their best selves). This commentator suggests that one’s life mission is to be true to yourself and your mission and that Israel was just not ready to enter the promised land because of this insecurity and worry about what others think. What do you think?

I would like to suggest another perspective – Israel was not ready to enter the promised land. They were too focused on the land and the place; and less focused on the mission and the community they had created and were about to create. They were consumed with the “giants” and the “scary” inhabitants, the challenges. Even their positive outlooks were fixated on the physical – the land, the bounty. While important, it is not the mission, which for Israel was to become a light unto the nations, the ultimate role models for humanity, to make the world a better place.

Here at camp, we too will have our giants to contend with, our scary moments – can you list any? And we’ll have many more blessings – share some.

Unlike Israel at the time of Sh’lach L’cha, we are ready to enter our promised land!! We are ready because we understand our purpose here and we are committed to it regardless of the giants we might encounter (amidst the endless blessings, joy, light).

We are about to enter our promised land, by welcoming CIT, Avodah Sunday and campers on Tuesday.   Soon we will be a full community and our mission, to inspire a love of Judaism, will be fully realized.  We have spent these past weeks with you preparing for their arrival; many of us have spent the entire year; and many of you grew up here, preparing for this moment for over a decade.   Many of you have counted down the years to being able to recite the blessing for Children, holding tallitot over their heads.

We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, who inspired us, taught us, and shaped our hearts, minds and souls.  I’d like you to take a moment and think about a person who has been that role model for you – a parent, sibling, grandparent, teacher, counselor, coach, a Rabbi, a friend — and I want you to dedicate your summer to them and let them be a constant inspiration for you, so that during those moments of elation and joy, as well as those moments of challenge, you can think about that person and gain strength and wisdom from them.   I want us to constantly think about the privilege we have to provide this for a child, many children this summer.

You have learned much over your week, weeks here at camp, preparing for campers arrival.  The most important thing is not what you learned, but who you are.  Be your best selves, be that betzelem Elohim, share your divine each and every one gifts with each other and with your children. This Torah portion “Sh’lach L’cha translates to “send yourself”.  It calls upon each and every one of us to understand that we can each fulfill the mission through our work, by committing ourselves.  There is nothing more important than being kind, keeping a warm a positive outlook, a cheery disposition. .    It’s been a great week, two of camp for this community – now we turn to the truest work – the children.

When you are with your campers, focus on them 100% and the gifts will be returned to you 1000% and we’ll all enter the promised land for summer 2015.