0 Posted by - June 11, 2015 - Bamidbar, Parsha


Parashat Shlach


 woman that one of my family members knows had three children. All girls. The woman was a bit bubbly, and when she was on her fourth pregnancy, she would tell her friends and acquaintances in a laughing manner, “If this child is also a girl, I will leave her in the hospital.”

After her due date, she walked around with a smaller tummy, a worried look on her face, and no stroller. She would cry when she met friends. Then, she suddenly poured out her heart.”The baby turned out to be Down Syndrome. I do not have the energy to deal with a Down Syndrome child. I left the baby in the hospital. I have just a week left to decide what I am going to do with the baby, and I cannot make up my mind.” A month later, she ended up taking her daughter home, and that baby brought a lot of happiness to the family. Although her words came true at first, thank G-d the story ended happily.

In another shocking story of a couple that had been childless for many years, the wife had additional suffering, because she knew that her mother-in-law suspected that she, the wife, was to blame for their problem.  More than once, when crying out in pain to her husband, she told him that it would be worth it to her to become pregnant and lose the child just to prove her mother in law that she was not the cause of their childlessness. After ten years, she finally got pregnant. And in her ninth month, she lost the child.

There is a Jewish concept that the Midrash teaches us in this week’s Parasha called אל יפתח אדם את פיו לשטן . This means that when a person says that something bad will happen, he finalizes the verdict for his own misdeeds. We all have emotions that are many times irrational. But this does not mean we can say whatever we feel. As a matter of fact, the way we speak, the words we use, define how we feel.

After forty days, the Spies came back to the camp with a bad report. Each spy went home that night and went straight to the corner of his bedroom. Seeing the head of the family doubled up in pain, the son, daughter and daughter-in- law came over to the Spy, asking what was wrong. The Spy said, I am so afraid for your lives! Those Emorai  are so big and frightening , one could drop dead from just looking at their faces! With that, the family burst out into tears. Then, the neighbors heard, and they also started to cry. Each Spy played this act, convulsing in fear and tears, in the corner of his room. This got his own family to cry , and the Spies spread this fear in such a way that the whole nation, even the righteous, cried through that fateful, Tisha B’Av night. (Midrash Yelamdenu)

They said, “If only we could die in the desert”, or “We could have died in Egypt; that would have been better than dying at war.” And because they said, לו מתנו לו מתנו , (Bamidbar 14 2) if only we could die, twice, G-d decreed death on them. All that generation of the desert, from the age, 20 – 60, would die twice. במדבר ×”×–×” יתמו ושם ימותו  (Bamidbar 14 35) They would die in this world on the Tisha B’Av when they were 60 years of age, and they lost the merit to enter the World to Come, as well. This is the power of אל תפתח פה לשטן.

But note this. Why did they speak in such a way? Because of an emotion. They were afraid. In spite of that, even though one is overcome by a certain emotion, one must take caution in what he says. ברית כרותה לשפתיים. You are responsible for what leaves your lips.

Another lesson we can learn here is that emotions are C3  . Contagious. Confusing. Controlling. Yawning is the expression of tiredness, an emotion(,as people feel tired). When you see someone yawn, you might yawn as well. If you hear a comedian cracking jokes, you will laugh much harder if people laughing in the background. Contagious emotion is the generator of angry mobs. It is what gives sports stadiums their vitality.

Emotions are Confusing. I have helped people who suffer from anxiety, worries and fears by clarifying things. If you tell someone who is worried, “Stop worrying”, they can’t. They have told that to themselves enough times. It did not work. And it won’t work. Because to fight emotions, you need to know the thought that caused them. These are the questions that I have found effective. “What is the worst thing that could happen?” ” What would be so bad about that?” “What can you do to prevent that from happening?” “What is the percentage/probability that your worst fears will be realized?” I had a study partner that was newlywed, and nervous. He could not get any sleep. I asked him what he was thinking about in bed. He responded that he gets up all night long to check and see if his newborn daughter is alright. “What are you afraid of ?” “Crib death.”

I asked him, “What are the statistics? How often does crib death happen?”  He said, ” There is a five percent chance.” “Think about it: is it really an immediate or serious threat to your baby? Do you know anyone, in your entire community that lost a child because of crib death?”  ” No”. “So, then what is the percentage?” “Maybe one in a few thousands.” “Are you calmer now?” “Yes.” “Now, what can you do to prevent crib death?” He did not know. He then said he can research this and be in a better position to take preventive measures. Now he sleeps like a log. When you know how to clarify the confusion, the emotion dissipates.

Emotions are Controlling. When you want to persuade someone, talking sense is not what does it. Talking to the emotion does. When the Spies intended to convince the Jews that it was not in their best interest to go up and conquer the Land, they did not speak to their minds. Rather, they spoke to the heart. First, they expressed their fears, and, only then did they tell their lie.

It is far more persuasive and influential to talk with your body, than with your mouth. If you want to control a classroom, become aware of your students’ emotions: are they looking for warmth or aloofness, a structured lesson or a relaxed one?. Fun or seriousness. Feel the pulse  of the classroom, and work with it.

So, the Jews in the desert were afraid. What is the worst that can happen? Die at war. So, why did they say they would rather die in the desert, of starvation, or in Egypt, from the harshness of slavery? Because when a person is afraid, he just freezes and does not think logically.

What are the chances that they would die at war? Well, that depends on whom they are relying. Relying on themselves, there was little chance of coming out alive. But, if they would rely on the same G-d who brought the Plagues on Egypt, split the Sea, and performed so many other miracles in the desert, winning the Emori would be a cinch!  But they did not want to rely on G-d; an irrational thought. They did not want to rely on His Mannah. They would rather serve an idol.  נתנה ראש , the Midrash says( Otiot D R’ Akiva), that they would rather serve idols, than serve a G-d that they needed to rely on. They wanted to win the war on their own, for they wanted to feel that they were a strong Nation. They would rather die, than live a life of dependence.

With all this confusion, they were still responsible for what they said.

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