Shelach-Lecha, Nomadland, Gaza, Haredim...and the Liberal Left



Why did the Meraglim reject Eretz Yisrael?


Hassidut teaches that they fell in love with the Midbar. The Manna fell every day, they were on close proximity to the Mishkan, everybody was united. It was a spiritual paradise, without concern for the material. They felt that entering Israel would be a step down, it would be to enter a real world - conquest, nation building, farming - and would harm their pristine spirituality. They feared the brutality of conquest, they feared the fruits and the toil and wasted energy that would go into managing a national agriculture. Wasn't it all a diversion from our real national "Torah" ethos?


To enter a land means to get embroiled in material things, in complicated, messy reality.


Some years back, my wife's purse was stolen. The police retrieved it (in a drug-bust) and wanted to return it. We spent two hours in a police station hallway, waiting for the detectives. We watched muscular policemen, with 3 pistols on their belts, hauling scary handcuffed criminals through the hallway. We were both quite taken aback by how much force and violence needs to be exerted, day by day, in Talpiot, just to keep our streets safe! To be in a State means that its messy. Moral ideals are fine in the academy. In life, we do the best we can.

Some would have us retain our moral purity and not get involved. The Haredim do not draft for the army because they are concerned that it will stain, it will drain their moral religious focus. They are correct. Anyone who drafts, or who goes to University will be less Haredi. But can we remain defenseless? Can we afford not to earn a living?


Many on the Left are ashamed of Israel for the civilian casualty count in Gaza, or for the injustices of "occupation". And every Israeli would have preferred not to have had the IDF shoot a single rocket into Gaza. But should Israel not fire back? How does Israel retain its values and remain safe? To be a State of Israel means to face at times excruciating choices where any option is not 100% pure. We can keep morally pristine, hands clean, but we will not have a country.


Yesterday, for the first time in 18 months, we went to a movie, the Oscar Winner, Nomadland. It is a wonderful, intense, thought-provoking, movie, about people who wander, who are nomads and live between society, in temporary jobs, from hand to mouth. Why are they there? For many reasons. Some are running from something, some cannot bring themselves to conform to suburban or city living, some love the purity of the outdoors. But in the movie, the antithesis to the Nomads is family, homes, babies, the next generation; building society itself. The Nomads are choosing to stay in the Midbar.


God wanted the Jewish People to enter Eretz Yisrael, to build a society. It comes at a price. But the laws of Torah are the laws of imperfect, real, human living: lending, farming, the military, personal injury, sexual temptation. That is our Torah. God did not want us to live as "a people alone", outside the orbit of humanity. The Meraglim got it wrong. We cannot live a disconnected, platonic, detached Judaism. We must enter the fray, and in that messy, complicated imperfect reality, with immense effort, moral and religious aspiration and determination, do the very best that we can.


And we can.

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