Yael Eckstein | June 16, 2020
And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.” — Numbers 13:32
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shelach, which means “send,” from Numbers 13:1–15:41.
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I decided to leave America, the country in which we were born and raised, and start our lives in the Holy Land. Whenever a Jewish person moves to Israel, we refer to it in Hebrew as making aliyah. Aliyah means “ascent,” and moving to Israel in accordance with God’s will for the Jewish people is considered a great spiritual ascension.
However, when I arrived in Israel, a friend cautioned me that it’s not enough to make aliyah only once. Rather, we must make aliyah every day. We need to continue ascending toward God and growing spiritually each day of our lives.
In this week’s Torah portion, when ten out of the twelve spies brought back a bad report about the land of Canaan, one of the things they said was, “The land we explored devours those living in it.” Literally, the Hebrew verse translates as, “The land we explored consumes those who sit in it.” Based on this translation, Jewish teachings explain that in the land of Israel, one must constantly grow spiritually. Those who “sit in the land” — those who remain stagnant, comfortable, and complacent in their relationship with God — will become consumed. Earthly materialism will take over their lives and completely envelop them in worldly pursuits.
The message for us, wherever we live, is that we must never stand still on our spiritual journey. Our spiritual lives are like walking up a down escalator — if we are not moving upward, we will automatically slide backward.
We live in a physical world filled with material delights that can easily distract us from our spiritual purpose. In addition, there are plenty of pitfalls that might lead us to sin if we are not vigilant and focused on our values. But when we make a commitment to grow daily in our faith, we can rise above our physical existence and ascend ever closer to God.
Keep moving upward, one day at a time.
Your turn: What is one step that you can take today to “ascend” closer to God?