Numbers 13:1 – 15:41
When you look into my face, my dear one, what do you see? Do you see the love and the wonder? Or perhaps, you see the face of fear?
You are beginning to ask questions. They are so many and they never stop coming. “Where are we today? Will we be here tomorrow or will we move on again, just like we did last week, just when I was beginning to get to know the area – the dunes and the wild brush and the calls of the jackals in the night? Is it true that we will never find a home? Is it true that we were supposed to be there already but something happened?”
You ask questions and I try to answer you as best I can. Inside, I shrink with fear. Can you see it? I dread the questions that you have yet to ask: “Father, is it true that you refused to enter the Promised Land? Is it true that you became frightened and wanted to run away?”
We dwell in our temporary shelters and never know how long we will camp in any spot. By now the house in Israel would have been built. By now you would be running through the yard with the animals, fetching water from the well, singing at our seder, celebrating how the Faithful One freed us from bondage and brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey. By now you would look into my eyes and see how tired I was from working our little plot, and how satisfied I was and how much I loved you. But we did not go that route, did we? So, when you look at my face, do you see the face of fear?
How can I explain the cause of my failure? How can I measure the ways that I have failed? I, who knew the fear of the taskmaster’s whip, thought that I knew the depth and breadth of fear. But I did not. I did not know how much fear a person could fear until I heard the report of our scouts. Then my entrails melted and my blood boiled into a raging flood, drowning my faith and my hope, sweeping me into a surge of fury so powerful that it could vanquish any foe. Except that, in my fear, I saw my God as my foe.
That fear overcame me so suddenly and with so little warning that I wonder what I can say to you when and if you ask me about it. How can I teach you not to fear when I cannot understand where the fear comes from? Yet, the wave of fear has past and I am still here, with you.
God did not command me to deny my fear, however ignominious it was. God did not push me into a land I was too terrified to enter. No, God let me be, to absorb my fear and, perhaps, outlast it. God condemned me to die out here, wandering in the wilderness. But God also sentenced me to raise you with your own hope and your own confidence that you, instead of me, will make it home.
When you look at me, you may see the face of fear. Yes, I was afraid and lost my faith in my Protector. But, every day, as I look at you, do you not see how my face shines upon you? For, every day, as I look at you, I praise God for allowing me to overcome my fear by placing my faith in you.
Rabbi David Greenstein
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