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Out of the Mainstream

It is not easy to be in the minority. Throughout our existence, the Jewish people has always been alone among the nations, “a wolf among seventy lambs.” However, long experience does not make the situation any easier to bear.

It takes tremendous courage and self-confidence to go against the stream; to believe in the righteousness of one's own path and to stand fast against the ridicule of one's peers. The further one's views are from the mainstream, the stronger are the pressures to conform, to be one of the crowd.

We  can hold on to the belief that sticking to our principles will invoke the respect of the people around us. For the most part, that's true – but not always readily apparent. On the contrary, most of the time people respond to minority viewpoints with ridicule at best, or outright attacks at worst.

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In this week's Torah portion we have an example of two people who held strong to their views despite being shouted down by the majority. Twelve spies were sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land. When they returned, ten of them brought back a terrible report. “It is a land that consumes its people... We will not be able to conquer them for they are stronger than we are.”

The Jews responded with panic, and then rebellion: “Why have you brought us to this land? ...Let us return to Egypt!”

There were two spies out of the twelve who took no part in the slander: Joshua son of Nun, and Caleb son of Yefuneh. They remained loyal to G-d and Moses, and did not hesitate to express their views in front of a hostile crowd of 600,000 people. “We will indeed go up!” Caleb declared courageously. As Rashi in his commentary explains, Caleb meant: “Even if Moses were to tell us to build ladders and ascend to Heaven -- we will do as He commands.”

The crowd responded with shouts and even throwing stones, but Caleb and Joshua were not intimidated.

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What gave Caleb and Joshua the courage to stand up to the crowd? Why did Caleb express his readiness to follow every directive of Moses? Why would anyone put that much faith in a human being?

Caleb's faith in Moses stemmed from the fact that Moses was a true servant of G-d, who had no desires or ego of his own. He commanded nothing but that which G-d conveyed to him. And for this reason Caleb and Joshua placed their implicit trust in Moses. This gave them the strength to proclaim their faith despite the roiling crowds around them. They knew that Moses spoke the truth, and the truth does not change, regardless of circumstances.

Similarly, chassidim today remain steadfast in their belief in the prophecy of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that we are the final generation of exile and the Redemption is at hand. True, the prophecy has not materialized as quickly as we expected. To the majority, this faith may seem foolish and misplaced. But chassidim know that the Rebbe made no public statement that was not divinely inspired. This gives them the courage to proclaim their belief in the Rebbe’s prophecies, as we await their ultimate fulfillment.

 

 


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