Where there is no leader, strive to be a leader

Where there is no leader, strive to be a leader

Rabbi Chuck Diamond
Rabbi Chuck Diamond

Parashat Sheleach, Numbers 13:1-15:41

In the first aliyah of this week’s parshah Shelach Lecha, God speaks to Moses telling him to “send men … everyone a leader among them” to spy upon the land. These 12 men were the cream of the crop, the best that that each tribe had to offer.

Ten of these leaders were not up to the task at hand. They returned, giving a pessimistic and depressing description of the Promised Land. The Children of Israel are whipped into a panic, and the people start to complain about Moses and Aaron.

Life is so bad that they would rather die than to continue to live.

Could it be that these 10 spies thought so little of themselves that they were indeed like grasshoppers in the face of their enemy?  Were Caleb and Joshua the only ones with self-esteem and the courage to complete God’s mission?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, in trying to understand what these 10 leaders of the tribes were afraid of, suggests that the spies were not afraid of failure but really afraid of success. After all, they were living the good life, eating manna from heaven, drinking water from a miraculous well, surrounded by the Shechinah. Never had anybody been so close to God.

Why give all this up? The Rebbe explains that they did not understand that God seeks “a dwelling in the lower worlds.” Judaism seeks to bring heaven down to earth, not vice versa.

In today’s world we are surrounded by “leaders” who are not prepared to tackle the challenges at hand. Caleb and Joshua were not afraid to speak out against the majority. They had a faith in God; they had a vision for the future. They were trying to fill their people with confidence and with hope for a positive future.

Don’t be afraid of success, a success that would make a better world for those around us, a world where the everyday can meet the spiritual, the holy in the here and now.  Where there is no leader, strive to be a leader.

Rabbi Chuck Diamond is spiritual leader of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha.