Parshat Shelach: Choosing back to goodness as the Promised Land

We have said often that the Promised Land is a state of consciousness manifest in a geographic space in the material world, a territory which all that contains is an expression of its nature. Again, the Jewish tradition understands the Creator not as a definable entity but as an ethical ruling principle that is also manifest in His creation. One way to see and assimilate this principle is by realizing that cause implies effect.

With this preamble we approach goodness as the purpose, goal, aim or end of the ethical ruling principle our God implies. By defining the identity of the Jewish people, the Torah introduces the children of Israel as God’s chosen to make goodness prevail in human consciousness. Hence His giving a specific territory created as the homeland that also represents and manifests the same purpose.

If the people were chosen to manifest goodness, their land was also chosen for the same reason. Thus we understand the words of the two tribal leaders upon their return after scouting the Promised Land.

“(…) The land which we passed through to scout it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey.” (Numbers 14:7-8)

The second verse states clearly what we mentioned above, and invites to reflect on God’s “delight” in the Jewish people, which brings us to the awareness that there must be something we must have in common with Him to make us His chosen. There must be something “exceedingly good” in us that we share with Him, and that is goodness.

This also brings us to inquire, explore and scout this goodness as the heritage God promised to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Certainly, it is not something waiting for us to take freely and without any effort.

“Only rebel not against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us; their defense is removed from over them, and the Lord is with us; fear them not.” (14:9)

In the land of goodness there is no space for anything different from its ethical ways and purpose, yet unethical people benefit from it at its expense. That is the reason we all find so many obstacles and opposition to goodness as the ethical ruling principle in God’s creation. If we remain close to the source of goodness and do not detach from it, what could we fear?

This verse unequivocally states that “the peoples of the land are bread for us”, which may mean that what we perceive as an obstacle or obstruction to achieve and possess goodness is not as bad as we believe, and that it is even something that we can take advantage to embrace what we dream to enjoy as life itself. Thus we realize that life is meaningless if lived in evil, and meaningful if lived in goodness.

This invites to think about how we can turn the negative traits and trends these “peoples” represent, and turn them into the bread that nurtures our willingness and determination to dwell in the land of life as goodness. As long as we maintain the permanent awareness of our common primordial trait with God, He is with us and there is nothing to fear, for in goodness there is no lack, defect, mistake, insufficiency or incompleteness; and it encompasses living in plenitude.

Again, being chosen does not mean a life free of commitments, duties, obligations and responsibilities. Being chosen means choosing back to what we were chosen for. This implies that if we choose goodness, we must fight for it and remove all that threatens its ways and purpose that certainly are the roots of the Jewish identity.

This is the lesson of the tribal leader who received his reward for choosing back to goodness.

“But My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him and has followed Me fully, him will I bring to the land where he went; and his seed shall possess it.” (14:24)

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry, descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity. Studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota. He lived 20 years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. Moved to Israel in 2004, converted to Orthodox Judaism in 2006 in Jerusalem. He lived in Safed for four years studying the Chassidic tradition and currently lives in Haifa.
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