"Giants in Our Own Right"

In the earlier days of the State of Israel its buses were not state-of-the-art as they are today. For someone who is 6’5” not having a seat on a bus was painful indeed. On one trip I had to stand directly under the vent as there was extra space. One quick stop caused my head to hit one of the four “walls.”

On another trip a wide-eyed little boy looked up at Suzy (also tall) and me and said, “Ima, anakim!!…Mom, look at the giants!!”  We all had a good laugh.

Anakim is a word that is found in this week’s Torah portion Sh’lach l’cha. It refers to the description of the inhabitants of the Promised Land as seen through the eyes of ten of the twelve spies. The twelve had been sent to check out the land and the people. Those ten said, “Compared to the inhabitants, we are like grasshoppers.There’s no way we will be successful!”

But the other two - Joshua and Caleb - gave realistic reports, neither pessimistic nor optimistic. However their bottom line was, “We can do it with God on our side.”

It’s hard to be optimistic in this religious world of ours. We are facing a Jewish population which doesn’t see affiliation as a priority; congregations merging or closing; Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies conducted by a rent-a-rabbi in a secular venue. Yet in the course of Jewish history this is a blip, as there have been other times when “the end” was in sight yet “the end” didn’t come.

What we need is the strengthening of what we have, an appreciation of the history of our congregation and a vision of the future that sees Beth El Congregation as a continued source of strength, a true Jewish presence in Harrisonburg as it has been for well over a century. Let the ten spies report what they will, but we have to carry the banner of the two, of Joshua and Caleb, so that we can look beyond the moment and be giants in our own right.