Monday, June 19, 2017

Davar Torah: We need a little of Caleb in us! Parashat Shelach L'chah Book of Number

Tonight is the final rite of passage for the congregation’s leadership by passing the baton to the next line of Temple  board members. Each new board faces the responsibility of overseeing programs, fiscal budgetary constraints, personnel and communicating with the congregation. We wish b’hatzlachah- success to these new board members and with gratitude that we say Todah Rabbah thank you to the outgoing board as well. New opportunities and challenges always exist  in moving forward in the life of our Congregation’s journey.

In our Torah portion we return to an ancient journey of our people who faced opportunities and challenges for the future generations of the Jewish people. In  the book of Numbers,Parashat  Shelah L’chah, Moses directs his leadership to  appoint ten representatives to scout out the Promised Land. The leadership team goes out on a reconnaissance mission and comes back with a divided report. Eight of the ten say that the indigenous population are too powerful for the Israelites. The Israelites call them giants and fear there will be a catastrophe if they try to invade. The minority report of two, submitted by Joshua and Caleb, take the opposite view urging the leadership to go for it. The end result was that the Israelite leadership followed the majority report and refused to move forward. 

God was furious and Moses devastated. God punished the entire generation of the people by saying that none of them except Joshua and Caleb would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. That faithless decision based upon the failure to act and the fear to move forward, resulted in forty years of wanderings without that generation seeing the fruit of their hopes fulfilled.

Some of the  Jewish mystics commented on this disappointment and said that the people who feared to take the risks were actually not ready spiritually to make this ascent to the Promised Land. In this parashah from the 13th chapter of Numbers it is written, They spoke to him,saying. “We came into the land where you sent us. It indeed flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit. But the people dwelling there is strong… But Caleb silenced the people for Moses, saying, “We will indeed go up and inherit  it for we are able.”

Caleb’s determination to prevail earned him that opportunity to enter the promised land years later.  God said that Caleb was special because “he had a different spirit within him.”  Faith and courage are critical elements in making important decisions then and today.

Do  the challenges we address today in our congregation regarding the issues mentioned above, especially the financial ones, represent the adversaries that appear to be too big for us to handle as well? Will we shy away or face head on the challenges that we as a congregation must deal with if we are to enter and preserve our place in that promised land?

We learn from the Torah portion that the generation of the Exodus did great things but they fell shy of  believing in themselves enough at a critical moment. At CBY our journey requires us to make hard decisions in the upcoming year and we are approaching a critical moment too. We too are making our best effort to create a funding mechanism that will enable us to keep the talented and valuable professional staff who are making such a positive contribution to our Jewish identity and our congregation’s well being. A special committee has been appointed by our President Pennie Meiselman  and chaired by Ted David to explore how we are going to meet these challenges as well. The leadership realizes that now is the time  to lead and to believe like Caleb that we can achieve our goals and overcome our legitimate fears for whether or not we can develop the funding to carry on with our mission.

I am thankful and appreciative of our leadership who in the spirit of Caleb said, “Let us go up” to the Promised Land  which will motivate us to do the same with our financial challenges. Our challenges are good ones because we have a steady and growing membership and a lot of enthusiasm at the same time that there are financial concerns about the future. Is there a can-do attitude and faith in our congregation’s willingness to fund the future? Will we move forward? Or will we stagnate? This is our future just like the Israelites. I believe we can do it for whatever CBY puts its heart and soul into it has in the past led to success. Our faith in ourselves is key.

When Moses told the reconnaissance team by saying, Get you up this way in the south and go up into the mountain”(13:17). Rabbi Akiva Eiger commented, “Moses told them to look at the land in terms of future generations and eternity, from the top of the mountain. Their mistake was they couldn’t see the panorama of  a future vision. We at CBY with a new board will carry on with previous board’s vision and move forward to the future and prove to us all the we can realize our vision for future generations at CBY.