Perception is reality. Or is it?
In Parashat Shelach-Lecha, Moses sends representatives from each of the twelve tribes to reconnoiter the Promised Land. All twelve are impressed with the land’s fertility and bounty. They are equally impressed with the fortifications of its cities – so much so, that ten of the spies believe it will be impossible for them conquer the inhabitants.
But the final blow is their perception of the military might of the Canaanites. “We saw the Nephilim there- the Anakites are part of the Nephilim – and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must appear to them” (Numbers 13:33).
Were they really like grasshoppers? Did they appear so small to the Nephilim? Or was it merely their self-perception, their own sense of insignificance and timidity?
It is telling that two of the twelve spies disagree with this self-assessment. Joshua and Caleb try in vain to rally the broken spirits of their brethren. We should go up, they say. We can conquer it.
What about us? How do we perceive ourselves, our Temple? Are we small and just hang-ing on? Are we ceding the field? Or are we just getting started, preparing for takeoff? Are we grasshoppers? Or are we actually the giants, the worthy inheritors and proponents of a vital and vibrant Jewish life? The answer is in our eyes, in our hearts, and ultimately, in our hands.
As I noted in my annual meeting message, I think we’ve been preparing for our renaissance. And people are beginning to notice: membership applications are rolling in.
To re-write A.A. Milne’s famous affirmation: We are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and worthier than we know.
Though I will be (as usual) serving our Reform movement at camp for the first part of this month, your Temple is here for you, through the year and all summer long.
L’shalom ulivracha (for peace and for blessing),
Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein