Parshat Shlach: A Spy Thriller

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19 Jun 2008
Arts & Media

A tale of cloak and dagger





The working title: Life


We are born for a reason

(Most of us agree on that)

But what reason?

(Most of us disagree on that)


Let us say, for poetry’s humble sake,

That we are born to make a difference,

To make of an obstacle an opportunity,

To make of a dying nightmare a living



Ah, but where is all the suspense, the high-

Speed chases and low-light mysteries

Promised by your title and opening


Where is all the tension of black-and-white film?

It’s noir to be found!


Oh, but drama takes more than just a good script:

It takes the development of character and purpose

And this we have done –

Character: we the human

Purpose: sanctifying earth


What about Setting, you ask?

Stage 1: the Desert

Stage 2: the Promised Land


Here’s where it gets interesting, intriguing:

How to get from Desert to Promised Land,

From obstacle to opportunity, from shadow

Cold and gray to light shining and warm?


How, from the great concept of peace

A simple, practical peacefulness?


Send forth for yourself men

And they will scout the Land

Of Canaan which I give to the

Children of Israel


A verse that seems to be averse

To its very own logic: if G-d gives

The Land to the people, independent

Of their abilities or disabilities, why

Then do the people need – and feel a

Need – to scout the Land?


Would man rather recon the land

Than reckon with the Divine?


Of renaissance and reconnaissance:


To enter a new reality, a land that

Must be settled, is very unsettling:

Imagine living an entire isolated

Existence, where heavenly bread

And splitting seas are the everyday

Norm, and, one day, you are told

That life is about to change –

Now on you’re going to work for

Your bread, no more using heaven

As a crutch but, like a child reaching

Adulthood, time to walk on your own

Two feet…

Scary, is it not?


But who’s afraid of scary?


Which I give to the Children of Israel


The Land of Israel, the holy potential

And the potential for holiness, is a gift

From G-d, whether or not we want it,

Whether we wish to enter the Promised

Land and embrace the possibilities or whether

We’d rather remain in the desert basking

In our fiefdoms and boredoms…


Send forth for yourself men


But a gift is not enough:

To settle the Land, to do a good

Deed, a mitzvah (for is not every mitzvah

A form of settling the Land?) we must

Know how, we must use our senses,

Understand and feel what the Land

Is all about, lest the potential of it

Never be fully realized.


This tale of cloak and dagger

Is not whether or not we can enter the Land

(That G-d has already established)

But rather how to enter the land, how to make

Of earth heaven –


Come upon the Promised Land –

Is anything standing in our way

Besides our own selves?


Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.