Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Spies at the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

This past Saturday, Jews around the world read Parshat Sh'lach, the section of the Torah in which Moses sends out spies to scout out the land of Canaan. 

It's notoriously difficult to turn human intelligence into policy.  There's always room for interpretation.  We find that in this Torah portion, where ten spies have one report and two another. Moses and Aaron react calmly to the reports, whereas the mass of the people of the Israel want to stone them to death for leading them into a trap!

What's bad for policy--diverse interpretations--is good for reading.  Since my dear niece Fay Stoloff's bat mitzvah five years ago, I have heard three entirely different readings of Parshat Sh'lach. 

  1. Rav Jeremy, the rabbi at Fay's temple in Willimantic, says that a can-do attitude can be more discouraging than an honest assessment of the problems we confront.
  2. Aaron O'Malley, a bar mitzvah at Temple B'nai Brith, admires his namesake Aaron the priest for speaking truth in the face of opposition.
  3. Anna Carton Smith, a bat mitzvah at Temple B'nai Brith, reminds us that our doubts about ourselves may not be how others actually see us.
All good lessons.  All useful to different people at different times.  I thank these three readers for "spying out" some of the meanings of the story, and I invite you to click on the links and spend a minute with each.

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