Do your best, but also show support and rejoice in the success of others whose will and determination inspires us all.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Va’era” (Exodus 6:2–9:35), and in it we read about the first seven plagues that God brought upon Egypt as Pharaoh continued to refuse God’s demand to let the Jewish People go.
It is also the Torah portion in which we read of God’s four-time promise to take the Jews out of Egypt and bring them into the Promised land, the Land of Israel. It is for this reason that we drink four cups of wine at the Passover Seder.
The commentators note that although God promises to take the Jewish people out of Egypt AND bring them into the Land of Israel, this was not exactly fulfilled as promised.
While the entire nation did indeed leave Egypt and were freed from slavery, only two people from this entire group ever made it into the Land of Israel 40 years later! Only Joshua and Caleb, along with the children and grandchildren of those who left Egypt, actually entered the Promised Land. All other adults who had left Egypt died in the desert.
Although the original plan was for everyone to have been brought into the Holy Land, that plan was tossed after the Jewish people sinned in the episode of “The Spies” after which it was decreed that the people would wander 40 years and die in the desert. But did God not keep His word?
It is explained that even though only two people from the over 600,000 adults who left Egypt actually made it to the Land of Israel, it was still worth it! It was still a fulfilment of God’s promise.
You see, most of us, unfortunately, do not maximize our potential. It has always been the case that only the cream of the crop, only a select few, truly persevere in life and make it to the top. This is true from the spiritual perspective as well. Nevertheless, these few elite individuals that are found in every social circle usually have a positive effect on those around them.
So it is here, as well. Joshua and Caleb were the stars. They rose to the top. They maximized their potential. But more important, we are told that their success brought merit upon the entire nation.
In other words, we all know that when a family member makes it big, the whole family becomes famous and reaps the rewards of fame. So too, while only Joshua and Caleb entered the land, the entire Jewish People succeeded as a whole, and this national effort and success continues to this very day.
We should all try to be like Caleb and Joshua and bring merit to all those around us. But if we cannot become a Joshua or a Caleb let’s show support and rejoice in the success of others whose will and determination inspires us all.
This article is based on the commentary of Rabbi Meir Simcha (d. 1925) as presented by my friend Rabbi Ben-Zion Spitz
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.