This week’s parsha is full of intrigue and adventure. Twelve elite men are chosen for a mission that will take them to the Promised Land in advance of the rest of the Nation. The mission was a dismal failure: Ten of the twelve emissaries prove to be treacherous. And this chapter, instead of bringing the People of Israel closer to the Promised Land, actually delays their entering. For forty years! So, real life spies exploring enemy territory, a land larger than life. Bringing back dire reports of huge people, a land that eats its inhabitants, a land that is aggressive and fortified. Panic ensues together with pandemonium. The people were in deep distress and threatened Moshe and Aharon. And God got very, very angry and wanted to wipe out all of Bnei Yisrael and start a new nation from Moshe. But Moshe Rabainu, in typical best-lawyer-in-the-world mode, managed to “calm” Hashem down. And instead of annihilation, God chose for a terrible punishment. That entire generation would pay for this disloyalty to God and all the males above the age of 20 would not merit to enter the Holy, Promised Land. Truth be told, we are actually still suffering from this dire episode to the present day. I am sure you agree that it is all very sad, very tragic.
But one very fascinating and chilling point here is that not only was this story very sad, but it was also very avoidable. Yes, it could have been kept from happening. Obviously, God knew what was going to happen in advance. But in this case, Moshe Rabeinu knew too. He knew this mission would come to no good and that they were doomed.
How do we know? Because the names of the twelve spies are enumerated, and then we are informed that one name was changed:
These are the names of the men which Moshe sent to spy out the land. “And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun – Yehoshua.” (Bamidbar 13:16). Why did he change his name? There are various reasons, but one Midrash, quoted by Rashi says: He prayed for him, may God save you from the plot of the spies. (Rashi, Bamidbar 13:16)
He worried for them all but especially for his disciple, Yehoshua. And so he changed his name, sought to add extra protection for his beloved student. Lovely.
But are you reading this? He did not prevent them from going. He did not stop them. I find this more than remarkable, shocking even.
I believe that Moshe Rabeinu knew something that we so often forget. Especially when raising our children. No two people are alike, nor are they meant to be. Each person comes to this world with his own mission. That means that my children cannot live my life for me nor I for them! They cannot live what I did not manage to nor can they try to make my dreams come true. They need to pursue their own dreams. Even if it at the cost of their making a mistake. While we pay sky-high tuition for our children’s schooling, sometimes it is life itself charges the highest tuition. We need to let our children go on with their lives. And pay the price for it. We teach them to walk, even though they stumble at first. We must let them run, even if they trip and skin a knee. There is great blessing in that. Freedom, hope, faith in their ability to enter the world, to meet challenge and survive it and overcome it. Spread their arms wide and embrace it for all it has to offer, without fear, without shame and without our overprotecting them.
I heard Rabbi Orlowek quoted as saying that a parent’s job is to make himself obsolete as fast as possible!!!
When we set ourselves up as our children’s cruise ship directors, who must get them to their destination – adulthood, in this case – as smoothly and as painlessly as possible, with no bumps or waves, then we are depriving them of the tools they need to grow. “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.” If we give our children the ability to confront and overcome difficulties and the faith that we believe they can, then we allow them to develop strength and courage and resilience. I could go on and on about the dangers and the risks of overprotecting our children, but it would all be superfluous. Moshe Rabeinu has always been our greatest teacher.
You have all heard the beautiful saying: the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots – and wings…
How beautiful, how enchanting, to believe in G-d and in them enough to let them go. To let them make their own mistakes even when we are biting our tongue in effort not to interfere. We did not appreciate the older generation’s comments when we were their age, chances are things haven’t changed that much. Moshe Rabeinu knew well enough to not even try. Even when he could have changed the course of history, saved G-d some nerves, saved some lives. But I believe he knew the wonderful, irreplaceable place of freedom to choose even when you choose incorrectly. And the invaluable lesson of mistakes…
Until next time, dear friends, all the very best,