A Different Spirit

Is the cup half full, or is it half empty? Do you see dark clouds or silver linings? The life of faith has no room for pessimism and cynicism.

Concept image of someone who assesses life in terms of their own reality. (Image © Bigstock)

Shelach

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Shelach (שְׁלַח | Send)
  • Torah: Numbers 13:1-15:41
  • Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
  • Gospel: Matthew 10:1-14

Regular readings above are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule for all these variations, and special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 13:1 | Spies Sent into Canaan
    • Numbers 13:25 | The Report of the Spies
    • Numbers 14:1 | The People Rebel
    • Numbers 14:13 | Moses Intercedes for the People
    • Numbers 14:26 | An Attempted Invasion is Repulsed
    • Numbers 15:1 | Various Offerings
    • Numbers 15:32 | Penalty for Violating the Sabbath
    • Numbers 15:37 | Fringes on Garments
  • Prophets
    • Joshua 2:1 | Spies Sent to Jericho

Portion Summary

The thirty-seventh reading from the Torah is called Shelach, an imperative verb that means "send out." The portion is so named from the first few words of the second verse: "Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan" (Numbers 13:2). The Torah reading tells the tragic story of how the spies returned with a bad report about the Land of Promise and influenced the congregation of Israel to rebel against the LORD. Thus God consigned the generation of Moses to wander in the wilderness for forty years.


The LORD spared the children of Israel, but He punished them by consigning them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness. He declared that they would never see the Promised Land that they had rejected. Instead their bodies would be buried in the wilderness. Their children, however, would be privileged to enter the land.

Even Moses, Miriam and Aaron were included in the doom. Only Joshua and Caleb were given permission to enter the land. The LORD said that Caleb would be allowed to enter the land because he had "a different spirit" (Numbers 14:24).

The different spirit of Caleb is evident from his report about the land. He and Joshua had seen the same Canaanites, the same fortifications and the same difficulties as the other spies but had come to a completely different conclusion. The other spies saw those things as obstacles. Caleb and Joshua saw them as opportunities for God to demonstrate His glory.

You may have heard someone say, "I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist." The inference is that an optimistic person is not realistic. Accordingly, the only honest and correct way to view the world is to point out the deficiencies, difficulties and inevitable failures. For the "realist," that is the real world.

There is nothing special about having a realist-attitude. Anyone can point out problems. Everyone can criticize. It takes no talent to be a naysayer. Maybe you know someone who is a rigid realist. Such a person is usually not very realistic at all. Instead a person like that demonstrates a marked tendency to emphasize the negative, ignore the positive and disregard miracles. To that person, answers to prayer are mere coincidences. Words of encouragement are irritating. Behind the veneer of cynicism is a life of dark self-absorption and self-pity.

The ten spies were just such realists. They assessed the situation in terms of their own reality—a faithless reality. From that perspective, things looked pretty dismal. A quick march back to Egypt was probably the best solution.

Caleb and Joshua were a different kind of realist though. To them, reality was not as big as God. They assessed the situation in terms of a reality that encompassed faith. The difference between Caleb's spirit and the spirit of the ten spies is the difference between seeing life through the eyes of faith or faithlessness.

The optimist says the cup if half full. The pessimist says the cup is half empty. The man of faith gives thanks that the cup is half full, and he marvels that God will either make the half cup sufficient to meet the need or miraculously refill the whole cup.

People say, "Every cloud has its silver lining." The pessimist sees the cloud. The optimist sees the silver lining. The man of faith sees the cloud and the silver lining both. He gives thanks to God who made the cloud, provides the rain, and clears the sky.

Caleb's different spirit is something we should all strive to attain. To be a person of faith is something extraordinary.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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