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One Man’s visit to Hebron

Friday, 8 June, 2018 - 2:28 pm

The story of this week’s portion, Shlach, is one of the most famous of biblical stories. It tells of a group of twelve men who were sent by Moses and the Jewish people to scout the land of Israel in preparation of their eventual conquest which was to take place weeks later. After spending 40 days in Israel scouring its length and breadth, they return to the Jewish People in the desert and ten of them give a very negative assessment of the land and the prospects of taking possession of it. They turn the people against G-d and Moses and convince the people that going to Israel and conquering it would prove impossible under the circumstances. The other two, Joshua and Calev, remain loyal to their mission and try their hardest to restore faith and morale into their Jewish brethren. The result was that the entire Jewish people were punished and wandered in the desert for forty years until that entire generation would die. Only the next generation of Jews would enter and take possession of the land of Israel. No doubt, this episode is one of the greatest failings of the Jewish people of all time.

There is much written about this event in biblical commentary. I would like to zero in on one detail of the story that is perhaps unnoticed. Moses had sent twelve men on this mission. Ten of them turn against him, while the other two remain loyal. As mentioned, these two loyalists were Joshua and Calev. The question is, what caused them to remain loyal to their mission, to G-d and to Moses and not fall prey to peer pressure and all the rest? Joshua, Moses greatest and beloved student, received a special blessing from Moses before he left. That blessing saved him. But what about Calev?

The answer can be found in an obscure word the Bible uses in relating the story. The text tells us that the twelve men left the Sinai desert and went to scout the land. The text then continues: “They went up to the Negev and he came to Hebron……”. It changes from ‘they’ went up to the Negev, to ‘he’ came to Hebron. The Talmud tells us that while they all went up to the Negev (and the rest of Israel to scout it) only one of them (he) came to Hebron. This was Calev. As soon as he arrives in Israel he leaves the group to visit Hebron where the forefathers were buried to visit their resting place, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.  The Talmud tells us further that Calev petitioned Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to pray on his behalf that he should succeed in the mission and remain loyal to Moses and G-d. He asked for their blessing and asked them to pray on his behalf. It was this visit to the grave site of the righteous forefathers that saved him. Calev understood that the Tzaddik’s resting place was the conduit to heaven and as such made sure to go there first.

This little detail, perhaps lost on many, is crucial in understanding the story of the spies and our own little personal stories. Like the spies, we are all on a mission from G-d to make the world a home for G-d. Our souls are sent here by G-d to conquer this world for G-d and make it a holy place. We all know that life here on earth is not easy. There are so many distractions and influences that can make us think that we cannot ‘conquer the land”. We sometimes become demoralized and give up. Can a minority of fifteen million Jews change this world and “conquer it” for G-d? Can we as individuals navigate the rat race of life and stay true to ourselves? For this, we need to look to Calev and what he did. He went to the grave of the Tzaddim (The righteous) and connected to them. That connection saved him.

Next Shabbos, June 16 (Tamuz 3), marks the 24th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory. The Rebbe was the Tzaddik of our times and I will be visiting the Ohel (his resting place) as I do every year to connect, learn, pray and ask for his blessing that I continue to succeed and remain loyal to my own personal mission in life. It would be a very good idea for every one reading this to also write a letter to the Rebbe for his blessing for all that you need, for health, Nachas, good livelihood and for spiritual success as well. This connection is vital for all of us as it was vital for Calev 3300 years ago. You can send me your letter and I will bring it to the Ohel or you can email it to ohel@ohelchabad.org and it will be placed in the Rebbe’s Ohel on your behalf. Don't miss this opportunity.

 

 Shabbat Shalom.   

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