When children learn to walk, they stumble and fall numerous times. This is the journey of life. We make mistakes, we fall, we learn, we get up, and we try again. However, I always have said, when we are on a spiritual path, we may fall, but we fall a little less each time. Life has its ups and downs. We may try to live life as perfectionists, but at times, even the best of us can be blindsided. We can slip up when we least expect it. In 1960, Wim Esajas, an 800-meter runner, became his country’s pride and joy becoming its first Olympian. Sadly, he was given the wrong starting time for the competition and ended up sleeping through the event. Esajas missed his chance, and his country would have to wait eight more years for another Olympian. But, life gave Esajas, and his country, another chance. Life always has a way of doing that. The Creator is love, and love always gives another chance. Each week in the cosmos, there is present one of 52 specific energies that correspond with the 52 chapters of the Torah. The Torah is our guide and instructional manual to life. Through the great Love of the Creator, this week, we are given the permission to be human, to make mistakes, and so too are we given the mercy of second chances. Even though we may miss an opportunity, there are options always available for us. The Creator teaches us that this is what love is all about: Second chances.
This week in the Torah, we read the dramatic story of Shlach Lecha. The Creator sends 12 of the Israelites, who were righteous leaders and the heads of each tribe, to go ahead and survey the Promised Land. They were to go in advance and notify the Israelites of the conditions that lay ahead. Perhaps this was a test from the Creator. Nevertheless, 10 of the 12 leaders returned with a negative and false report. They lied about what they saw, because they were afraid if the Israelites knew how well and blessed the Promised Land was, they would rush to enter, and their troubles would be over. Consequently, the heads of the tribes, would be, in a sense, out of a job; their leadership and their power would be lost. This prospect did not sit well with them, so they decided to lie about what they saw. At this point, the Israelites, though they had lived the great miracles from the Creator and experienced many acts of His love, actually believed the lies and doubted the Creator completely. They even asked to return to slavery in Egypt!
This portion of the Bible is one of only a few portions dealing directly with judgment. At first glance, it seems to be only a negative story. But underneath is its hidden gem and blessing from the Creator, as always. The people did fall. They lied to keep their power. They doubted the Creator, they did not trust the process, and even wanted to forgo the whole plan and return home. Lying, doubting, and breaking commitments to people we love, unfortunately is not something new to us. We have all made these same mistakes and are guilty of even much worse, but we are still here. We stand to face yet another day because the Creator loves us. He is rooting for us to complete our work on Earth: to learn how to love one another as we would love ourselves. Each week, even though the story of the Bible is thousands of years old, we read actually about ourselves. The Torah is always in real time. As human beings, we do lie. We have questioned the Creator when things go wrong and we have broken the hearts of loved ones. We are human and we were placed here to make these mistakes. But we were also placed here to learn and to grow in the process. The journey out of ego and into love does not happen overnight. Like a child learning to walk, we are given the love and space to fall and the permission to try again. The Creator was indeed furious with the Israelites and wanted to prevent them from ever entering the land, altogether. But that was not the final decision. As Moses says in this week’s portion, “The Lord is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” The Creator loves us and knows we will fall. But the Light will always be there, lifting us up and heading us back on the right path. We need not ever fear to fail. We need not ever fear to be abandoned. We need not ever fear that we will be unsuccessful, for the Creator is love, and love is second chances.
This week in your meditations, see yourself in the little shoes of every child around the world learning to walk. As you take each step in life, you get closer to entering the Creator’s loving arms. All along, knowing that you will fall and knowing that it is OK. You will be able to rise again, and the Creator is there to pick you up and help you start over. This is what true love is. Love is not a cage of perfectionism or a guilty verdict. Love is mercy. Love is understanding. Love burns for us inside the Creator’s heart, and it is what we find in our hearts, too, if only we are willing to cultivate it.
When we fall, we often beg mercy for ourselves. But when others fall, we demand justice. If we can open our hearts a little more this week and learn how to give others second chances, we can be sure to find that we will be given nothing less ourselves.