Shabbat Message from Ben Tabas
Ben Tabas, JCC Digital Communication Specialist
June 15, 2012 25 Sivan, 5772
Numbers 13:1 - 15:41
Mapping Possibility in the Unfamiliar
“When Moses sent them to scout the land of Canaan, he said to them, ‘Go up there into the Negeb and on into the hill country, and see what kind of country it is.’” -13.1
This week’s parsha shows us how social realities are not static. They are in constant flux, a perpetual state of transformation. Even though our Jewish traditions and values come from a genealogy of ancient histories, conventionalities, and lived experience, they are constantly changing and adapting to new challenges. There is not just one correct way to interpret a Torah passage. Unfamiliar, poetic ambiguity enables the lineage of tradition to flourish.
The parsha opens with Moses and Aaron at the border of Canaan. Ahead lays uncertainty and new, potentially dangerous territories. Every moment for the Jewish people in the desert is a step in a random walk. They are teetering on the brink of a civilizational shift as they travel to the Promised Land. New traditions and histories are being actively created and changed. Their nomadic movements through the desert are predicated on possibility, emerging from the uncertainty of the new lands. When Moses sends scouts to Canaan, the Jewish people are navigating new terrain and mapping its uncertainties into a new cultural cartography.
Life is uncertain; we can never predict where the subatomic particle will appear, or what will flash across the synapse. Once thrown, however, the dice are destiny.
Nonetheless, it’s our own decision as to how we calibrate the consequences of the roll. The way we navigate foreign, unfamiliar, and new events engenders our worldview and lived experience; weaving a fabric in which any number of connecting routes could exist—possibility. Later in the passage G-d protects the Jews from danger and presents a list of commandments for his followers. In this act we can see what structures of knowledge support what social realities, as new traditions are created.
Just as Moses sends men to scout an unknown land, exploring the unfamiliar enables new ways of understanding that cultivate conventional structures of knowledge and imagine new ways of being in the world.