37th Torah portion, 4th in Numbers

Sh’lach L’cha 13:1-15:41 (119 verses)


Moses sends twelve spies to Eretz Yisrael to report on the inhabitants and the country. Despite the positive report of Joshua and Caleb, the people are frightened. God threatens to wipe out the Israelites but relents when Moses intercedes (again!) on their behalf. To punish the people, God announces that all those who left Egypt will not enter the land except for Joshua and Caleb.

We Shall Surely Overcome It


Our Torah portion brings us once again to the story of our lives: The end of our particular journey is in sight. It is just out of reach. At the edge of the ancient wilderness, the people finally reached the borders of the Promised Land. Moses selected a representative from each of the twelve tribes and charged that group with scouting out the territory they were about to enter. That Land represented the completion of a journey from enslavement to freedom.

Ten of the twelve scouts brought a report that threw the people back into the fear that centuries of enslavement had nurtured. They proclaimed the Land both desirable and unattainable: “We cannot attack that people, for it is stronger than we…. The country that we traversed and scouted is one that devours its settlers. All the people we saw in it are men of great size … and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” (13:31 – 33)

Only Caleb and Joshua brought words of encouragement:

Caleb hushed the people before Moses and said, “Let us by all means go up, and we shall gain possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” (13:30)

Rabbi Ted Falcon, one of the rabbis of my youth, teaches, “We awaken to a vision of the self we wish to be, of the life we wish to live, and we ’scout it out,’ we imagine stepping into that reality. And then voices within us rise up to convince us the territory is too difficult for us—we are inadequate, we are not deserving, we are unworthy, we are not strong enough to occupy that new Land.”

How do we move beyond such fear, negative and apprehensive thinking? That internal dialogue becomes our own worst enemy. It often stops us from reaching our loftiest goals. One response is obviously the one the majority of the people in our story took: It’s their fault, not ours! Other people make me feel this way! Other people did this to me!

Instead, we need to seek and activate the divinity within each of us that will enable our fuller evolution, and our response to others in our world. When we awaken to this vision, to new ways of responding to new realities and to others, only then will we be at the borders of a new Land.


  1. Have you ever felt that someone perceived you in a certain way? Did you then live out what you thought was their perception of you?
  2. How many times have your own self-perceptions or presumptions (or how others perceive you) gotten in the way of positive action?
  3. Can faith and belief allow you to see beyond the apparent difficulties and barriers to imagine and achieve a distant, but highly desired, goal?
  4. What does it take to change from being one of the ten scouts to become a scout like Caleb or Joshua (“Let us by all means go up, and we shall gain possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.”)?


One of the sins of the ten scouts is that they did not trust in God and did not trust in their leadership (Moses and Aaron).  Think of steps to overcome your trust issues.

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” 
– Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)


“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” 
– Emile Zola (1840-1902)


“If it were easy, everyone would do it.” 
– Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks character in A League of Their Own)