Each week we feature a different outstanding Florida Rabbi.
Torah Portion of the week:
Rabbi Barry R. Friedman
For now, this year, the message of the Sidrah has direct bearing on me. Moses sends out 12 men to scout out the land of Israel and they bring back their reports. Moses had asked the scouts to evaluate the land on specific criteria. Determine if the people are strong or weak, numerous or few. See if the land is fertile or barren. Ascertain if the cities are well fortified or if the people live in tent camps that can be easily overrun.
Moses' final advice to the scouts, when sending them on this possibly dangerous mission, is "v'hitchazaktem," "be courageous."
The scouts do as they are asked to. They check out the land of Israel and bring back their report. In fact, there are TWO reports. The majority report indicates that the land is beautiful, but so well fortified as to be impregnable. The minority report agrees that the land is beautiful, but adds that with God on the side of the Israelites, the land can certainly be secured for the Jewish people.
As I live in Israel this summer, and I travel the land, and meet her people, I am hearing two reports. Some say that the people are weak and the only way to deal with the Palestinians is to show displays of strength. Others say that the people of Israel are strong, and that, with God on our side, the most powerful strength we can show is the strength of our desire to make peace. Some say that the land is fertile and we can afford to relinquish certain areas. Others say that the land is barren and we need every inch of it to use for our people. Some say that the Israelis are few in number, compared with the Palestinians and their high birth rate. Others say that we can compensate with increased aliyah.
The only truth which we can ultimately ascertain among the various reports from Israel this summer is "v'hitchazaktem," everyone agrees that this is a time which requires great courage. The time of peacemaking can be as treacherous as the time of making war. Both require great strength of spirit and courage of heart.
May the people of Israel (including the Jewish people of Florida) have the courage and resources to make peace in our own hearts, our own homes, our own communities, and our own country, Medinat Yisrael.