In an age when we are inundated with opportunities for distraction from essential issues by the latest tweets and youtubes on the antics of celebrities and sports stars, when we are overwhelmed by the administrative details and the minutiae of daily life can wear us down, it is instructive to see that Dr. Seuss could balance lighthearted children’s books with penetrating political cartoons. He was haunted by the war in Europe even as he could write Green Eggs and Ham.

This week’s Torah portion, Shlach L’cha, asks big questions, as Moses’ sends scouts into the land of Canaan to:

… see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they are strong or weak, whether they are few or many; and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it is good or bad; and what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in camps, or in strongholds; and what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is wood therein, or not. (Numbers 13: 18-20)

You may recall that, when the twelve scouts came back, two of them, Joshua and Caleb, spoke about how great the land was and how they should get ready to go inhabit it, while the other ten gnashed their teeth about the overwhelmingly large challenges that made them feel like grasshoppers. Then the people wail, G-d gets mad and Moses tells them they’ll all have to perish in the wilderness in order for a newer, braver generation to take the opportunity to move into a new future.

This story can illuminate some of the big questions we might want to challenge ourselves with, so that we can rise above the humdrum mundane existence and enter a wider expanse of existence.

Are we rising to the challenges facing us, or using the obstacles as excuses not to try?

Are we standing up for our perception of possibilities, or giving in to the despair of the crowd?
Do we use language to bolster the best in others, or to knock them down, either directly or behind their backs?

Later in the portion, we learn about the mitzvah of challah, and the commandment to set aside a portion of our best bread as an offering. Are we setting aside a tithe, a contribution from ourselves and our resources to give to others?

In the last section of the portion, we are told to wear tzitzit, the fringes on the corners of our garments, in order to prevent us from straying and following whatever our eyes want, rather than what the best, most moral and loving path might require.Are we too being led by our eyes, by desire and not by need, by urge and not by intention?

May Dr. Seuss and the scouts remind us to push beyond what comes at us, past what will push us down into a diminished life, and to move forward toward the questions that matter the most. May we scout out and follow our very highest selves toward a life that is like the land of milk and honey, a life that is nourishing, fulfilling, and sweet.

Shabbat Shalom,