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The Big Picture

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” — Joshua 2:8–9

The Torah portion for this week is Shelach, which means “send,” from Numbers 13:1–15:41, and the Haftorah is from Joshua 2:1–24.

This week’s Haftorah tells a similar story to the one in the Torah reading. In the Torah portion, we read about the unsuccessful venture of the 12 spies who went to scout out the land of Canaan. In the Haftorah, the spies got it right. It’s about 38 years later, and Joshua was ready to lead the people into the Promised Land. Two men were sent to scout out the land, and they brought back a report of empowerment and inspiration.

However, the story goes deeper than this. This Haftorah reading is not only about the spies – it’s about Rahab – the prostitute who saved the spies.

Just as the spies in the Haftorah are contrasted with the spies in the Torah, Rahab is the counterpart for the Israelites in the desert. The contrast is startling. When the Israelites cried after hearing the bad report, God said, “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” (Numbers 14:11). After all that God had done for the Israelites and after all of the miracles that they had witnessed firsthand, how could they not trust in God?

Rahab, on the other hand, had only heard about the wonders of the Lord secondhand. She told the spies when they arrived at her house, “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og” (Joshua 2:10). As a result of what she had heard, Rahab didn’t doubt God’s abilities for one second. She declared, “I know that the LORD has given you this land.”

The Israelites failed to connect the dots. They failed to make the connection between what God had done and what He could yet do. But not Rahab. She saw clearly – what God had done in the past would surely be reflected in the future.

In Hebrew, the word that is used to describe a Jewish person who is “secular,” meaning not particularly attached to God’s Word or observant of a traditional Jewish lifestyle, is chiloni. This term comes from the word chol, which means “mundane.” However, the word chol also means “a grain of sand.” A person who doesn’t see God’s hand in the world views events in life as individual things, like single grains of sand. They miss the big picture.

Let’s do as Rahab did and put it all together – all the events in our personal lives and in human history. When we step back and look at the whole picture, we will surely recognize the holy hand of God moving our world – now and forever!

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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July 1, 2016
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