Friday, June 12, 2015

Parshas Shelach Lecha 5775, June 2015; Finding Self Transformation

This parsha as we all know begins with the story of the Jews sending spies into the land of Canaan in preparation for invasion. G-d did not suggest nor command this, Moshe Rabbeinu did not; rather the people petitioned Moshe to request of G-d to permit them to do this (Yalkut Shmonei).  They made excuses as to why it would be beneficial. It was obviously unnecessary as they had G-d's protection and Cloud of Glory proceeding them throughout their travels. They even tried to justify their zeal to find fault in the land by twisting halachah, claiming they needed to be able to destroy all idols, as if that wouldn't be possible if twelve men didn't try to spy out all the land, as if twelve men would locate every single idol everywhere in the region (Midrash haGadol).

We all have our own biases, difficulties, tendencies to justify our own actions. Yet this week's parsha also teaches that we are responsible not only for our own actions but for our very thoughts. It is stated in this parsha that it is forbidden to associate with one who scorns G-d's word; and also that even thoughts about immorality are forbidden. To the extent that we are at all in control of our environment and our mind, we must keep them moral and productive at all times, consistent with growing in Torah.

I will digress here into a story of self-transformation in my ten year old Gilad. He seems to be very mildly in the grouping of a developmental condition his oldest sister and oldest brother have. No geneticist ever put a name to it, just said they seem to have features of various things and have varying combinations of congenital brain damage, mental illness, developmental and/or intellectual disability, sensory dysfunction, non-verbal learning disorder. Gilad also has a severe speech impediment; several teachers (not Israeli ones but American ones!) have had such a hard time understanding him in class that his friends appoint a "translator" to tell the teachers what he's saying. He's been having speech therapy weekly for years, naturally.

But he's also very, very shy and socially awkward. He would much rather curl up by himself and be left alone than interact with others (sound familiar?).  Since he was two teachers have been recommending as many play dates as possible.
The last few years at the community swimming pool he refused to even go if his older brother Sachy didn't come to play with him, and then he interacted only with Sachy.
This year his little sister Adele who is very social and interactive decided to join the beginning diving team and Gilad decided he'd join too. Within two weeks, this child who wouldn't jump into deep water unless I was there nearby is throwing himself into the deep end. He's diving forwards and backwards off the diving board, which he'd never even approach before 3 weeks ago. But not only that--he's going to the pool 2 hours before practice, finding other kids his age, older, and younger to play with, and only coming back to me for snacks briefly before running off to play again, even if his sister is with other children. Last year he just tagged along after her. I have never, ever seen such a blossoming in such a short term.
My point in telling this story is that it is our choice at every moment to rally for Torah and personal development or to retreat. A child like Gilad has only limited understanding and ability, both in developmental and Torah expectations (he's still several years before bar mitzvah).  Yet in taking a positive risk he found a tool which has changed his life. At every moment we have these opportunities available to us if we only seek them out. We can choose to join the rabble, defame the holy land, and spend 40 years in the desert; or we can choose the opportunities G-d puts in our lives for self-transformation and come closer to H-m by changing ourselves and learning from what G-d has created all around us as a gift.  The holiness of the land is the holiness of every Jew coming closer to Torah, learning how to be part of the holy kehillah of B'nai Yisroel, and learning how to approach new challenges in our lives, as everything G-d does is for the best.

1 comment: