One verse in the Shelach Lecha Torah portion reveals an important secret:
Spies are sent out to survey the Land of Israel and most of them return to their people in the desert with a negative report. After encountering the residents of the Land, they say it makes no sense to journey there. In the course of their discussion, they utter these significant words: “And we seemed like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes.”
In other words, first we saw ourselves as grasshoppers, as weak individuals, and therefore that was how those we encountered saw us too. After we saw ourselves as small and meek, lacking self-confidence, without hope – we were similarly evaluated by those we met in the Land of Israel.
Yet wasn’t it G-d who told Moshe Rabbeinu to send the spies on this mission and also promised that it would be successful? So what was the source of the spies’ weakness?
What was true in the desert is true today as well: Our self-image is the foundation of our attitude, of how we see ourselves and of how others see us. If we see ourselves as self-confident, if we go out into the world with optimism, faith, and a vision for the future, others will see us that way too.
This week is an ideal time to decide who we want to be.
* * *
School Year Ends Or Begins Now?
About 700,000 high school students in Israel begin summer vacation this week, and as Rabbi Yaakov Edelstein, zt”l, used to say: “Now the real school year begins.”
After all, summer vacation is not a vacation from values or from anything that is important to us. It’s a vacation from school alone.
In a certain sense, during vacation we see who we truly are. When there are no school bells, teachers, or exams, we make decisions on our own – when to get up and when to go to sleep, how to fill up the day, how to relate to our surroundings. Indeed, most of our lives are lived outside the school system hours imposed by the Ministry of Education. And therefore, summer vacation is an authentic taste of life, the most important semester of the year. Now that summer vacation is upon us, the real school year begins.
May our children – and we, too – enjoy success in the weeks ahead.
* * *
Doron Almog: About “Them” And Us
Here are a few quotes from Doron Almog, an IDF Major General (res.) and founder of the Aleh Negev Rehabilitation Village, who was just chosen as the new chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel:
- “My son Eran suffers from both a mental disability and autism. He has never spoken, never called me Abba, and has never cried. Despite all of this, he is my greatest teacher in life.”
- “Who are the people whom we treat? Why care about them at all? In my view, they testify to our vulnerability, to our delicate status as strong and healthy individuals. At any moment, any one of us could be in Eran’s situation. Whoever doubts this is welcome to visit our rehabilitation department and see successful human beings who lie in bed without moving. Don’t look at them as ‘different.’ All of us are likely to become completely dependent on others sooner or later. And then we, too, will benefit from those who never lose the human touch.”
- “I was the first soldier to land in Entebbe (in 1976, in a commando raid to free Israelis whose plane had been hijacked). From my perspective, our activity is a continuous ‘Operation Entebbe’: to be the first responders in this area as well, to be leaders in the relationship we forge with the weak.”
- “Lovingkindness is one of the three pillars on which the world stands: Torah, Service of G-d, and Lovingkindness. It seems that society’s values have become materialistic, that our culture is caught up with ratings and superficial standards of beauty, that appearances are all that matter. But at the same time, I can say that I am privileged every day to see among us employees and volunteers who hug and kiss the vulnerable and rejected, whose appearance keeps many people away. In our dedicated caregivers, we see the true Israeli and Jewish DNA that lies within, where a lot more than what is seen from the outside is revealed.”
May you enjoy much success in your new position.
* * *
Mazal Tov, Goldin Family
Hadar Goldin, a Lieutenant in the Givati Brigade of the IDF, was killed and kidnapped in Gaza by Hamas terrorists. To this day his body has not been returned for burial in Israel. Rabbi Itamar Haykin, the teacher of Hadar Goldin and his twin brother Tzur in the Science and Technology High School in Ra’anana, sent me this message last week:
This evening Tzur and Ya’arah will stand under the chuppah and enter the covenant of marriage. This will be a time of great rejoicing. As at every wedding, the climactic moment of breaking the glass will arrive, and the verse from Psalms will be sung in a sad tone: “If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right-hand wither, may my tongue cling to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not elevate Jerusalem to the forefront of my joy.”
This custom comes to teach us that even in the happiest moments of our lives, such as the transcendent moment under the chuppah, we must pause and focus on Jerusalem as the ultimate source of our happiness. In this way a connection is made between the present joyous moment and the past and the future. In other words, this moment serves to connect the memory of Jerusalem as it once stood and the hope for its being rebuilt in all its glory. This moment also connects the personal, flawless reality of a glass full of wine and blessing under the chuppah to the general, imperfect reality of a broken glass as a remembrance of Jerusalem – all under the same chuppah.
Under the chuppah of Tzur and Ya’arah an additional broken piece is added to the broken pieces of the glass. The twins Hadar and Tzur were always together, from the birthing room to Operation Tzuk Eitan (Protective Edge, the Gaza War of 2014). There they parted ways. For me, in high school, they were always ‘TzurHadar.’ I always imagined Tzur carrying Hadar on his shoulders at Hadar’s wedding and Tzur on Hadar’s shoulders at Tzur’s wedding. But then something broke.
Let us pray that the commitment not to forget Jerusalem will remind all of us, as well as those who might have forgotten, to fulfill our national commitment to bring home soldiers from the battlefield.
And, of course, we will be joyful and happy all night (even if a stubborn tear will occasionally be seen glistening in the corner of an eye). Let us rejoice with Tzur and Ya’arah and bless them, wishing for them a lifetime of closeness, companionship, love, and peace, and that they will merit to build a lasting legacy in Israel. Mazal tov.