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Parshas Shlach: A Moment’s Merit

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“ … My servant Caleb, since he showed a different spirit and followed Me wholeheartedly …” (Bamidbar 14:24).


Two spirits: one in the mouth and one in the heart. To the spies he said, “I’m with you in counsel,” and in his heart he spoke the truth. And this way he was able to silence them, for they thought that he would say as they did.

How important is the value of one positive moment and how great is its reward. After all, Caleb’s good deed lasted but a moment. He silenced the confusion, put a stop to the people’s tumult, cooled and extinguished the fire of strife — but only for that one moment during which they thought he too was adding to the fire. In the end, they returned to their rebellion. So truthfully, what impact did his protest make? (Rav Chaim Ephraim Zeitchik, Maayanei HaChaim,)


Rena was the first to bring it up. But it could have been any of the women eating lunch together. It was such a burning issue that no spark was needed to set it off. Esty added some details that Rena didn’t know. The others didn’t sit idly, either, but spoke up loudly and forcefully.

You sat there on the sidelines and saw the flames catch hold and soar. “This is lashon hara,” you wanted to say. But silence filled your throat. Rena told Esty that the whole issue was far more complicated than she realized. Esty’s fiery answer was that she knew that all too well, and that she had smelled trouble from the very start. Shoshana said that it couldn’t be allowed to happen again, that it was simply terrible, and added another story that she’d heard on the topic, to add more fuel to the fire.

And you? You couldn’t stand the smell of fire. Suddenly, you noticed that the Coke can in your hand was still half full, lukewarm and flat. You’d lost your appetite. Too many words were choking your throat, words that you couldn’t deliver.

“Uh, does anyone know where the bin is for recycling cans?”

Recycling? Esty is silenced; she shakes her head. Shoshana looks around her. You take advantage of the moment and talk about how the laws are changing, and the fines for items not recycled are rising. Esty has forgotten what she was saying, and you keep discussing the various ways recycled material is now being used. Shoshana seems interested. The subject has been successfully changed.

Abruptly, Esty remembers! She returns to where she left off; the flames flare again …

What did you accomplish?


But still, it was worthwhile to silence them even for a moment and to interrupt their bitter words. This interruption accomplished something. For it cooled and weakened the strength of their words, compromising their power. And then their rage was no longer as scalding, even if it continued again afterward. (ibid.)


Why bother? you ask yourself. There’s no chance that this will change anything. This is the voice of reason and sanity. You’re a caring, good-intentioned person, but you can’t change the world. No one is going to pay attention to what you say, let alone change their opinion. So why bother? Don’t speak now; you’ll only lose; lay low.

No. Caleb quieted the nation despite knowing that the calm was temporary. Sometimes we think of something kind to say, or muster a smile at an old competitor. But we wonder — is it really worth it? Bottom line, will anything change because of our small efforts? How long will the good feeling last? Five minutes?

Five minutes!

Even one minute is a complete eternity, reaching lofty heights beyond compare.

And you can merit to five such minutes?


The Ohr HaChaim points out that in this merit, Caleb was called an eved Hashem, as was Moshe Rabbeinu. And he was promised life. For although he was then forty years old and Hashem decreed that they live forty years in the desert, Hashem promised Caleb that he would live until they arrived in Eretz Yisrael. So he was promised forty more years of life — something that wasn’t done for any tzaddik in the world.

Caleb merited all this because of one moment when he interrupted the incitement that flared among the Jewish Nation. How great is the power of one moment. (ibid.)


A smile that thaws frozen hearts … an attempt at making peace … protecting one child, just one child from harm. One child. A whole world. A billion moments of eternity.

So wait a minute, don’t go. We need you. One “Caleb” against the entire nation.

Even for a moment.

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