Perashat Shelah 5777
Perashat Shelah 5777Friday, June 16, 2017
This week we read Perashat Shelah-Lekha. The perasha begins with the episode of the Meraglim, the twelve spies that were sent to report back to Moshe about the nature of the land of Kena'an and its inhabitants. As it turned out, ten out of the twelve spies that were sent gave a bad report on the land and in turn were severely punished to die in the desert. Why? Did they really do something wrong? Weren't they asked to make their own personal observations? If so, why should they be punished?
Maybe we could understand this better through the following story:
Throughout the kingdom there came an announcement: "His majesty, the king, is looking for a talented artist, a master of the brush who would know how to faithfully depict the image of the king." The glorious portrait would be displayed in the city square for everyone to see, and the artist would get a big reward. But the artist faced a problem. This king had been a great warrior, and through the battles over the years, he had lost an eye and a leg. How would it be possible to paint an image of such a crippled king? Soon enough, at the palace gate, stood an artist who accepted the challenge. For a full month he worked tirelessly, day and night, to prepare a beautiful portrait. When the day finally came for the portrait to be revealed, a lavish festive ceremony was prepared. Attending the unveiling ceremony were all the ministers and dukes of the kingdom. The veil was removed, and sounds of amazement could be heard from all those in attendance. The painting portrayed the king in all his glory with all of his limbs, healthy and strong, without any trace of his war wounds. "Breathtaking! What a masterpiece! Exceptional!" exclaimed all the ministers. But the king was not satisfied. "You liar! Scoundrel! Who are you trying to deceive!? What is depicted here is not me. Throw him in jail immediately!"
The next day, a new announcement was issued for the king's portrait. In no time at all there was another artist willing to try his luck. For an entire month he toiled on what would be his masterpiece. During the unveiling ceremony everyone was nervous, biting their fingernails, not knowing what the painting was going to look like, and how the king would react. The second the veil was lifted everyone stopped breathing. There was the king, exactly as he looked like in reality, a cripple missing a leg and short one eye. "What precision," agreed the ministers. "There is nothing more to say; this is exactly what his majesty looks like!" But the king went wild with rage. "What nerve! This is the way you want to embarrass me in front of my entire kingdom?! Lock him up!"
The next day a third announcement was published, and this time, no one took up the challenge. A long time passed until somebody showed up at the palace and said he was up to the task. The ministers were amazed at his courage but feared that his fortune would be like those who preceded him. After a month of intense work, the painting was completed, and all the ministers turned out again for the unveiling ceremony. Everyone feared the worst, and the atmosphere was so tense you could cut the air with a knife. The veil was removed and a grand masterpiece was revealed. The king was seen in the painting riding on a horse which stood by a creek between blossoming trees. The majestic image of the king was from a profile view, with the king sitting astride the horse, one foot hanging over one side of the horse while the other was hidden on the other side that was not visible. The king was seen holding a bow and an arrow, directing it towards the horizon to an unseen target as one of his eyes squinted to gain better precision. The room went completely silent and everyone looked towards the king to see his reaction. His majesty the king glowed. "Amazing! This is exactly me! Magnificent!" he exclaimed as he handed the artist a hefty prize.
There is a saying that life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it. We have to choose what to put our focus on, what to put in the center and what to leave in the background. To those who have an "'ayin ra'a", an "evil eye", even the Promised Land of "milk and honey" looks like, "a land that devours its inhabitants", but to those who have an "'ayin toba" even in a place like Sedom there is a chance to find just enough saddikim, and perhaps, to save everyone due to their merit.
One who sees the world in a negative light brings upon himself his own punishment. He lives in a hell that he has created for himself. One who lives with a positive outlook, an "'ayin toba", feels the merit and the joy to live in this world and despite the fact that is it not perfect, can still feel the taste of Gan Eden within it.
May we succeed at having the proper outlook on life.
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780