Edging unto the highway…

five level interchange.jpegIt was pretty scary that time, trying to get unto the highway...

But let me explain. When I learned how to drive many years ago, my instructor wouldn’t let me practice driving on the highway; all of my training was done on local streets. It’s against the law to drive on the highway before you have your license, he explained. But how am I going to learn how to drive on the highway? I asked him. After you get your license you will pick it up as you drive, he said.

And so, not long after passing the test, I found myself driving with a friend. And this trip required driving on the highway - my first time on the highway (yikes).

I’ll be the first to admit, it was scary. I’m inching along the on ramp trying to merge onto the highway. On the slow lane of the highway, cars are whizzing by, and I’m supposed to merge into that. Naturally I slow down, until I’m practically stopped on the on ramp. Cars are honking behind me, I’m starting to sweat and now it’s even harder to merge onto the highway lane. After inching forward for a while, somehow miraculously a gap opened up on highway and I was able to get in without causing any accidents.

My friend – an experienced driver, explained to me that this is not how it’s done. Next time he said, as you are on the ramp approaching the traffic, you need to speed up! Instead of worrying if you will find a space to merge, you need to act with confidence and self-assurance and remember that you are a good driver and you will see that you will find a gap in the traffic where you can merge. Either before that other car or after but you will find your place to fit in. It took me a couple more tries, but eventually I got the hang of it and it works!

This got me thinking about this week’s Torah portion of Shelach.

We read about the scouts who were sent by Moses to scout out the land of Canaan. There they encounter some giants which frightened them about the prospects of being able to conquer the land. When they came back to the Moses and the Israelites, this is what they said about the land. “There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, descended from the giants. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” (Numbers13:33)

And the question is asked: Why the redundancy? If they were like grasshoppers in the eyes of the giants, what is the Torah adding by stating that they seemed like grasshoppers in their own eyes?

The Chasidic master of Ger - Rabbi Yehudah Alter (sefas emes) answers: The reason why the other people saw the spies-scouts as grasshoppers isbecause they were like grasshoppers in their own eyes.

We can learn from the spies a psychological truth. If we look down upon ourselves, that will reflect in how other people look upon us. Our self-image is subconsciously projected to those around us. If we respect ourselves that will reflect in how other people respect us.

This doesn’t mean that we should be arrogant, aggressive and go around abusing other people, but at the same time we shouldn’t be the doormat either. It’s all in the balance. When we have a healthy self-image and self-confidence, we will have the courage to do what needs to be done at the time that it needs to be done, without considering what others think about us.

This applies in all aspects of our life whether at work, in our relationships and even in our religious beliefs.

The other week I was hanging up mezuzos in someone’s house. I encouraged this fellow to take a picture and post it on Facebook. Let all your friends see that you are a proud Jew and you display your mezuzah on your doorpost with pride. Indeed this is what he did.

Let us wear the banner of Jewish identity with pride. And let us lead our life with a healthy self-image and confidence – minus the arrogance.

That way, when driving, we will even be able to edge our way onto the highway ; )

Shabbat shalom