It Really is Up to Us – Parshat Shelach

Having just returned from the 22nd World Congress on Logotherapy, I am excited about all that I learned, the people I met and the topics presented. The meeting of minds and challenging each other to achieve greater understanding, even when agreeing on the basic premise, was exciting.

It is no surprise, then, that it took almost no time to find an outstanding search for meaning in this week's parsha. In Parshat Shelach, the 12 spies returned from their trip to scout the land of Israel and reported back to the people. Two groups – a group of ten and a group of two - presented their account of the trip. One group, the group of ten, offered a disheartening account while the group of two offered a hopeful account.1

The people had a choice. They could choose hope or fear. On the whole, they chose to accept the fearful account of the group of ten and almost immediately developed a sense of despair. Until that moment there was a sense of purpose to their one and a half year sojourn since the Exodus – after all, they were being led to a land of milk and honey. They believed that they would be reaching the land of their fathers. Once they accepted the report of the group of ten, however, that their suffering in the desert would only lead them to a land of giants and that their life would be constantly threatened, their suffering no longer had any meaning…and they sunk into despair.2

The second group offered a different picture - one which included hope. They agreed with most of the facts but their conclusion was different. They chose to have a different outlook of their future and therefore, of their suffering. They believed that they would succeed in conquering the land and be able to build a safe. thriving civilization Their suffering had meaning so instead of sinking into despair, they retained hope.

The people then had a choice. They chose a path which led to despair. This was not the group upon which a free nation could be built. As Henry Ford once said, "whether you think you can or think you can't, you will be right." The people were faced with these reports and needed to decide. They chose despair.

Suffering is an unavoidable part of life. What sets us apart is how we choose to face it. It doesn’t erase the suffering. In fact,standing up to the suffering may be very challenging – so challenging in fact, that we may feel that we don’t have the strength to do it. Giving up may even seem to be the natural thing to do. Do we want to be among those who choose despair? Personally, I would rather learn to choose hope.

In memory of my mother, Hentcha Leah bat Yitzchak Lipa, hk"m

Refuah sheleimah for Malka bat Gittel


  1. Bamidbar chapter 13
  2. Viktor Frankl has often said that suffering without meaning leads to despair (S-M=D)

Have A Great Shabbat!laughing

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