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Role Playing

Friday, 4 June, 2021 - 7:08 am

I sometimes feel like the would-be split baby in the famous story of King Solomon and the two women (see Melachim/Kings 1 Chapter 3).

With ten children בלי עין הרע, a trip to the park is lots of fun. It can also be fraught with challenges. One of the greatest challenges is ensuring that each child has his or her time and place. One wants to play ball; the other wants to go down the slide; and a thirds wants me to push her on the swings.

When they complain about having me do this or that, I really wish I could be in two places at once. Because ultimately each one deserves his/her own time and particular age-appropriate activity.

I could easily tell them all to do the same thing, but I would be robbing them of their individual identity and creativity. And I might soon learn that an eleven-year-old on the toddler slide is a recipe for disaster!


In this week’s parsha of Shelach we read about the unfortunate reconnaissance mission of the twelve spies. Moshe sent the leaders of each of the twelve tribes to scout the land of Canaan. The mission statement was simple enough: Go observe the terrain and determine the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy so we can best prepare for warfare. Instead of focusing on finding ways to win the war, the spies came back with a terrible disheartening report, eventually leading G-d to punish the Jewish people to spend 40 years as wilderness nomads.

I’ve always been amazed at the perfect symmetry of the assignment. Twelve spies, one from each tribe. If the objective was to make a military and strategic assessment, why did Moshe send the leaders of every tribe? Could not five spies have sufficed?

Rather, Moshe was imparting a powerful lesson about perspective and destiny. No two people are the same. What Reuven observes is not necessarily what Shimon observes. In Jewish tradition, the personality of the Jewish people is split into twelve tribes. Moshe realized that if he sent spies from some – but not all – of the tribes he would only have a partial picture.

If the land was destined to be the home for the entire Jewish people, representatives of each tribe/personality would need to participate in this critical step of analysis.  True, this afforded more potential failure. But Moshe wanted to allow all of them to contribute and thereby succeed.


As we interact with others let us remember that each person is gifted with their own character, perspective and destiny. At no time should we deny them the opportunity to fulfill their own destiny. Even if it opens up the door for failure.

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