Once there was a woman who applied for a new, high paying job. She scheduled an interview for 5:30 in the evening, and told her husband to be sure to be home on time at 5:00, so she would be able to take the car and be at her interview on time. As the day went on, she called her husband at work, “Remember honey, I need you to be home at 5. Please don’t be late.”
He repeatedly assured her he would be pulling into the driveway at exactly the moment she asked. However, as his day progressed, he became engrossed in a number of projects, ultimately losing track of the time. When finally he managed to glance at his watch, he realized with horror that is was already 7:30! His wife would have entirely missed her interview. Quickly he dashed out of the office. On the way home he stopped at a florist and bought the most beautiful bouquet in stock; a dozen red roses. He figured this would make up for his mistake. When he arrived home, his wife met him at the door, furious. He tried to show her the roses, but she couldn’t care less. “I know I made a mistake, but it’s okay! I brought you flowers!” he said in exasperation. His wife looked him in the eyes and told him, “I didn’t want flowers. I wanted you to
do what I asked you.”
In the parsha this week, Moses sends spies (Meraglim) to scout out the land of Israel before the Jews attempt to take possession of it. When the spies return, most of them bring a terrible report, saying that although the land is indeed beautiful as G-d promised, the nations that dwell there are far too strong to overpower. They are too strong even for G-d himself!
The Jews begin mourning, and many even wanted to return to Egypt. Even though G-d had promised to give the Jewish people the land of Israel, they no longer believed He was capable of fulfilling his word. The Torah tells us that G-d made a decree, that that generation, would be destined to wander and die in the desert, and only their children would enter the land. Quickly, they changed their mind, saying “We have sinned! Now we are ready to go up and capture the land!” Moses warned them that they would not be successful, having missed their chance, and even now they were disobeying G-d. nevertheless, the Jewish army attempted to enter the land, and were slaughtered by the natives.
Our story about the late-working husband and the Torah’s narrative share the same theme. As human beings, we often think we know best. We convince ourselves that our decisions are always right, and that we can “break the system” and everything will turn out fine.
But as we see in the case of the husband, his rationale was flawed. True, his wife probably loves flowers. But this time, she wanted him to simply follow her directive. His embellishment was unnecessary, and possibly even insulting. Similarly, once G-d decreed that the Jews will wander in the desert, their sudden, newly found faith was also insulting.
We know what G-d wants from us, how He wants us to serve him. While of course, everyone is meant to serve G-d with his or her own individual style and talents, we cannot create our own religion. The Torah gives us guidelines, ethical and moral directives, that we are not in a position to tamper with. We must always be cautions, when occasionally we (as individuals or as a people) must improvise or adapt our divine service, not to rely solely on our own human rationale, but to stay true to the path of our holy Torah.
I want to remind everyone of our upcoming Hebrew reading classes! They will begin on June 30th, and will run for the next five Tuesdays. We will have a day time option from 11:00 to 12:30, and an evening option from 7:00 to 8:30. Refreshments will be served at each class. There is a $60 fee, which will cover each class, plus a beautiful text book. Please let us know by June 25th is you are interested. We hope to see you there!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom