The Honey in the Promised Land
By Rabbi Label Lam
And they went and they came to Moshe and to Aaron and to the entire
congregation of the Children of Israel… (Bamidbar 13:26)
And they went and they came…Just as their coming was with bad advice so
was their going already with a sour agenda. (Rashi)
What was so devastatingly bad about what the spies did? They reported
things the way they saw it. Why did their discouraging report have such
horrific consequences? The entire nation was made to take a forty year
detour. The Talmud debates whether those doomed to wander and never enter
the Holy Land had forfeited their portion in the next world or not. How
did such great princes fail? Why was the whole nation implicated?
One hot summer day a friend of mine offered me a cold drink in his
apartment. I had never seen this Israeli brand before. I studied the large
Hebrew letters on the can: Samech/Phe/Raish/Yud/Nun/Gimel. “What word is
that?” I wondered. Then I got it! “Suffering!” “That’s an odd name for a
drink!” I thought, until I turned the can around to the other side and
there written in English was the real name, “SPRING”. The difference
between an experience of suffering or spring may depend upon the perceived
placement of a few small dots.
The Famous Psychologist Eric Fromm wrote the following: What is
unconscious and what is conscious depends…on the structure of society and
the patterns of feelings and thoughts it produces…The effect of society is
not only to funnel fictions into our consciousness, but also to prevent
awareness of reality…Every society…determines the forms of awareness. This
system works, as it were like a socially conditioned filter; experience
cannot enter awareness unless it can penetrate the filter.” We can
appreciate that the human intellect is not only processing information
rationally, it is filtering out noise and images and tons of stimuli.
Since we cannot respond to everything only certain things are allowed to
enter our consciousness while others fly under the radar unnoticed.
The criteria of what we screen out and what we let in is either a factor
of some individual or societal idiosyncrasy. We are not likely perceiving
total reality at any given moment but rather some subjective version of
truth based upon prior notions.
A young man visiting Paris for the first time went with his native
Frenchman friend to the famous museum The Louver. There he glared
unimpressed at masterpiece after masterpiece. The Frenchman, unnerved
asked if he liked what he had seen. The young man told him
disappointedly, “All the paintings have milk on them.” The Frenchman was
astounded, “Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet, and the Mona Lisa all with milk on
them!?” Then he looked closely at his visitor friend and realized that his
glasses had milk on them. Aha!
A man walked into an old time tailor shop picked out a bolt of cloth and
was measured for a suit. He returned on the appointed date excited to wear
his new suit to that day’s occasion. To his great dismay one arm on the
jacket was six inches too short. The pant leg on the other side was also
six inches too short. The man was livid. “Where am I going to get another
suit for tonight’s affair?” The tailor quickly advised him to raise his
shoulder in a certain way so that the sleeve rested on the wrist and to
lift his leg so that the cuff of the pant leg lay on the shoe. Contorted
by the new suit he hobbled down the street. Two gentlemen were following
behind. One said to the other, “Look at that unfortunate man!” The other
responded, “But he sure has a great tailor!”
In “The Sane Society” Eric Fromm explains how a person can be considered
well-adjusted but since he is in an insane society and although he is a
paradigm of success- a prince he is crippled by the mental suit he is made
to fit. He’s a perfect production of an unperfected societal agenda. If
the spies perceived milk on a masterpiece and read suffering into spring,
then another generation having purified lenses would have to be trained to
behold both the milk and the honey in the Promised Land!
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.