In an age when we are
inundated with opportunities for distraction from essential issues by the
latest tweets and youtubes on the antics of celebrities and sports stars, when
we are overwhelmed by the administrative details and the minutiae of daily life
can wear us down, it is instructive to see that Dr. Seuss could balance
lighthearted children's books with penetrating political cartoons. He was haunted by the war in Europe even as
he could write Green Eggs and Ham.
This week's Torah
portion, Shlach L'cha, asks big questions, as Moses' sends scouts into the land
of Canaan to:
see the land, what it
is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they are strong or weak,
whether they are few or many; and what the land is that they dwell in, whether
it is good or bad; and what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in
camps, or in strongholds; and what the land is, whether it is fat or lean,
whether there is wood therein, or not.
(Numbers 13: 18-20)
You may recall that, when the twelve scouts came back, two of
them, Joshua and Caleb, spoke about how great the land was and how they should
get ready to go inhabit it, while the other ten gnashed their teeth about the
overwhelmingly large challenges that made them feel like grasshoppers.
Then the people wail, G-d gets mad and Moses
tells them they'll all have to perish in the wilderness in order for a newer,
braver generation to take the opportunity to move into a new future.
This story can illuminate some of the big questions we might
want to challenge ourselves with, so that we can rise above the humdrum mundane
existence and enter a wider expanse of existence.
rising to the challenges facing us, or using the obstacles as excuses not to
Are we standing up for
our perception of possibilities, or giving in to the despair of the crowd?
Do we use language to
bolster the best in others, or to knock them down, either directly or behind
Later in the portion, we learn about the
mitzvah of challah, and the commandment to set aside a portion of our best
bread as an offering. Are we setting
aside a tithe, a contribution from ourselves and our resources to give to
In the last section of the portion, we are
told to wear tzitzit, the fringes on the corners of our garments, in order to
prevent us from straying and following whatever our eyes want, rather than what
the best, most moral and loving path might require.Are we too being led by our eyes, by desire
and not by need, by urge and not by intention?
May Dr. Seuss and the scouts remind us to push beyond what comes at us,
past what will push us down into a diminished life, and to move forward toward
the questions that matter the most. May
we scout out and follow our very highest selves toward a life that is like the
land of milk and honey, a life that is nourishing, fulfilling, and sweet.