Latest update: July 3rd, 2012
Hope you are well! I am doing great, but my back is still on the fritz from IDF reserves. We, a thousand IDF Paratroopers, participated in an amazing land, air, and sea exercise, “capturing” both the Carmel in Haifa and then the Hermon on the border with Syria. I drove a Ranger jeep throughout the nights and got six hours of sleep in 4 days. I cannot describe to you the beauty of Israel’s untouched nature as seen through night vision goggles, on a full moon night at the foothills of the Hermon mountains, with choppers landing left and right, and Israel’s finest soldiers trudging up to the peak.
Fighting for Israel makes one proud. But we were not always ready to fight for Israel and we were not always so proud. A dark story in our past continues to haunt us – it is discussed in this Shabbat’s Torah portion, Parshat Shelach. This is my favorite Torah portion of the year, because it deals with issues so central to our lives today. I even made a film about it in which I travel to Hebron, the Temple Mount, and the Tomb of Rachel to tell the tale. Watch the film HERE.
Back in Bible times, the Jews were going through one heck of a roller coaster. Through wonders and miracles they Exodused from the murderous bondage of Egypt, they traveled through the desert to Mount Sinai, where they were privy to an awesome laser-light Torah-giving extravaganza, and now, armed with newfound freedom and a guide book of Supreme Knowledge, the Jews trekked toward their final destination, the Land of Israel.
On the edge of the land, Moses sent in reconnaissance, the top tribal leaders of the generation, to come up with a tactical plan to enter and capture the land. The undercover agents surveilled the land for 40 days, from the 29th of Sivan to the 9th of Av. But when they returned for debriefing, they unleashed a torrent of darkness so pernicious that we are still suffering the impact of it today. The spies, the trusted leaders of the 12 tribes, went from tent to tent maligning the land, reporting that it eats its inhabitants, that unbeatable giants roam the countryside, and that the Israelites would never succeed against those odds.
Caleb and Joshua, two of the 12 representatives championed the virtues and opportunities of the Land of Israel, entreating their kinsmen not to be afraid, assuring them of victory and prosperity. Caleb – who God later praised as having a “different spirit” – expressed his faith and love of the land in his famous phrase “Aloh Naaleh – We can certainly go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” But Caleb and Joshua were shut down, overruled by the negative reporters. Instead, fear filled the hearts of the Jewish people, and they cried, rebelling against God’s promise to the forefathers, begging to return to Egypt, to slavery.
God’s wrath was kindled. He sentenced the whole generation to die in the wilderness, because they could not be cured of the slave mentality shackling their minds to Egypt. A new, fresh, forward-thinking generation would have to be born – one ready to advance into the challenges and triumphs of life in Israel.
But that was not the end of the story. So disgusted was God with the unwarranted tears of unfounded fears that He decreed that in the future, the day the ill-fated report was issued – the 9th of Av – would be a date worthy of real tears. It would be a day of calamities and sorrow, the date on which Jerusalem would twice be destroyed and the Children of Israel would be exiled for millennia. As we are dispersed around the world, we are in the grips of that exile until today.
So false messaging, fear mongering, and the broadcasting of doubt brought down a generation and led to the Jewish people’s worst tragedies. The Israelites were about to enter the land, but were instead sentenced to a 40-year desert death march and destined to endure a long and painful exile. A missed opportunity if there ever was one.
How do we rectify the sin of the spies? By doing the exact opposite of what they did. We need to love Israel with all our hearts, and to take every measure that is antithetical to rejecting it. Because the original sin was committed through slanderous speech and scare tactics, we can repair the damage by focusing on positive, empowering speech for Israel. That is not so easy, because we live in a media culture where negativity reigns, and where slander is the norm.
So the Yishai Fleisher Team and our amazing partners around the world are issuing a first-of-its-kind challenge – and we are calling it Caleb’s 40 Days 4 Israel.
For the 40 days that the spies traversed the land and prepared their negative report – from the 29th of Sivan to the 9th of Av – we will say only good, uplifting things about Israel.
– We will refrain from saying negative things about life in Israel [“The streets are dirty”, “The bureaucracy is impossible”, “I can’t stand Hareidim/Chilonim/Religious Zionists”]
– We will refrain from fear mongering [“Iran is going to nuke Israel”, “We must bow to world pressure”, “You can’t make a living there”]
– We will do our best not to imbibe negative messaging from our friends, family and even media. We will do our best to consume positive stories and take in positive energy.
– We will express only good sentiments about Israel, and actively search out and share affirming experiences, stories, places and individuals. We will promote positivity.
This is a speaking diet, designed to cleanse us from the false paradigm that the media, and our own Jewish cantankerousness, have fashioned. It need not bleed to lead. We cannot ask CNN to stop bashing us if we are going to do it in our own outlets and around our own dinner tables. If we are to be a light unto the nations, then let us broadcast light. By challenging ourselves to amend our speech we can help close a wound that wants to heal after two-thousand years of pain. And by speaking well of the land of Israel, we will melt all the fears and the doubts that fill our hearts today and we will ignite a burning desire in our nation to fall in love with our homeland, and to finally make it our home. Be part of it.
In the next few days we will help you be a positive broadcaster for Israel through Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #40Days4Israel). You do not have to use Facebook or Twitter to participate you can simply check a special campaign website called 40Days4Israel (coming soon) for great positive content every day. We will be putting up posts from great folks like: Zev Stub from Janglo.net, Rabbi Shimshon Nadel, David Ha’Ivri, Rabbi Tuly Weisz at Israel365, Rabbi Mottle Wolf at InwardBound, Lorelei Kude from Radio Free Nachlaot, Rabbi Shlomo Katz an inspirational musician and teacher, Rabbi Chaim Richman founder and director of The Temple Institute, and of course from the JewishPress.com, and many more to come. You can share what you find on our website or anywhere else through email, or make a positive speech campaign around the water cooler at work, at the grocery store, on the phone, or wherever you run into your friends and family. We also want to hear and share your positive ideas, stories, photos, and videos too.
If you have something in mind to share now or later, send it to me by email at email@example.com.
About the Author: Yishai Fleisher is the Contributing Editor and PR manager at the JewishPress.com, and Israel's only English language broadcast radio show host (Galey Yisrael 106.5FM). Yishai is an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, they have two children, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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