Thursday, June 14, 2012

Swimming Against the Tide: Parshas Shelach

We all know the story of the miraglim, spies, and how they returned with a negative report about Eretz Yisrael. The crime committed here was loshon horah.  It seemed this negativity was contagious, since all but two of the miraglim  joined in with the bashing. It's actually impressive that those two remained exceptions. Because swimming against  the tide , and standing up for your convictions against opposing forces, is hard. Very hard.
The power of influence is a strong one, where even the most confident and stable people can easily fall. For a person to put themselves in a situation where they might be influenced for the negative, is taking a VERY big risk. Even if they don't think they can be moved from it, or even if they think it wont 'touch' them. Because, what happens when you walk into a fresh fish store? Even if you don't touch any fish, you walk out stinking like raw carp. So it is with the power of influence.
What is the trick to being able to be around a negative situation and not become influenced? Actually, I have no idea. If you have any advice on this, please send it my way. But meanwhile, let's see how kalev and Yehoshua, our two heroes, survived, and thrived from this difficulty.
They each had there own method of survival. Yehoshua had a rav. His name was Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe blessed his talmid before he left on his journey, that he should be saved from any spiritual obstacles along the way. Yehoshua  also knew that he can turn to Moshe whenever he needed him to ask for advice, which is what he did. Having a mentor, as we learn in pirkei avos is of utmost importance. Someone whom we can look to for inspiration and advice. Someone that we can trust will have our best interest in mind, and therefore give us the correct guidance.  This person can be a Rav, a teacher, a parent, or even a friend. As long as chosen mentor respects his or her own Torah hierarchy.
Kalev unfortunately did not have a rav or mentor as his partner did.  Yet, he needed someone just as much as Yehoshua did. So what did he do? He decided to speak to Hashem and he put himself in the arms of his Creator, asking for the strength he needs to overcome the spiritual difficulties that may lie in his path.
Now, this sounds like a beautiful and ideal solution, except there was one problem. He had to put himself in sakana, danger, by traveling to Chevron  to daven. It was more complex and a lot riskier- both physically and spiritually.
Obviously, Yehoshua's method is the ideal one. Perhaps due to the proper guidance he received, he was able to eventually become the leader of klal Yisrael. Evidently, this is what we should be striving for. At any age. We're never too old to learn from someone or to seek advice from another. Never.
Kalev's situation should be used as a last resort. No, I don't mean the davening to G-d, but rather the prayer on its own without a tangible messenger to learn from. Having a relationship, and opening the channels of communication with God, is the goal! But in order to understand His answers, and His Torah, we need to have those messengers to guide us in making proper choices.

Common denominator: They both had yirat shamayim, an awareness of God's constant presence and involvement, and turned to Him, each with their own method, to seek instruction.
(It would be a good idea also to set up safety nets around yourself if being in a potentially spiritually harmful situation is inevitable, besides for having a proper mentor).
"Life is like a shower... one wrong turn and you're in hot water". 
Have a great shabbos!