Torah Tidbits


Shabbat: A Jewish Gateway to Conquering Fear Shabbat Parashat Shelach Lecha

Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

June 1, 2013 – 23 Sivan 5773

Shabbat: A Jewish Gateway to Conquering Fear

Just listen to the news, or don’t listen to the news, but turn on a television program, and pay attention to the advertisements for various products…Just look at the list of movies playing right now in movie theaters.  If you do, you may notice how many of the messages and themes that surround us daily are “fear inducing” – how many of them reference “end of the world” scenarios.  We are bombarded daily with “fear-inducing” messages.

While some measure of fear is necessary in order for us to survive and might even motivate us to strive for excellence, excessive fear can immobilize us, depriving us of the healthy sense that we can innovate, participate, and succeed in the world.

What can we do to strike a healthy balance between helpful fear and excessive fear?

A close reading of our weekly Parsha offers us an amazing insight into fear management…

Parshat Shelach Lecha opens with the story of the 12 scouts, sent by Moses, to report back to our people on the Promised Land.  It is a well known story.  Ten of the scouts brought back stories that frightened our people and ultimately led to their continued wandering in the desert for forty years.  The sad truth is that the generation of Israelites that allowed themselves to be swayed by the fear inducing message of the ten scouts never made it into the Promised Land.  Although, according to the Biblical story, God decreed that they would remain in the desert, it was the people’s own fear that held them back.

Interestingly, the end of the Parashat Shelach Lecha reminds us of the importance of observing the Shabbat and closes with a reference to the mitzvah of tzitzit.

Of this mitzvah we are told:

“Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God.  I the Lord am your God, who bought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I, the the Lord your God.” (Numbers 15:40-41).

Each week we are given the opportunity to observe Shabbat anew.

Each week this opportunity is a sacred gateway to conquering excessive fear.  It is a gateway to remembering that God is with us, leading us to the Promised Land.

If we fear that we have not done enough during the week – that we cannot rely on God to be our partner in managing the world – then we will never allow ourselves to rest on the Sabbath.

If we observe the Sabbath, we teach ourselves that it is okay to relax and to let go of excessive fear – once a week, every week!

I believe that it is no coincidence that our Parsha begins with the story of the scouts who planted excessive fear in the hearts of our people, and ends with a story reminding us of the importance of Shabbat.

Observing Shabbat is a marvelous way to help us strike a healthy balance between healthy fear and excessive fear.

Jewish practice of mitzvoth, in its wisdom, offers us the Shabbat – the spiritual practice of setting aside one day each week – one day in which we exercise our healthy sense of faith in the face of whatever is going on in the world around us; one day in which we allow ourselves to rest our fears and to heal our souls.

It is a gift too precious to ignore!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gilah Dror

P.S. Rosh Chodesh Tammuz will be a week from now, on next Friday night, Saturday and Sunday!  May it be a month of joy, of health and of peace, for us, for all the people Israel, and for all people everywhere!