This week we read Parashat Devarim, which begins the book of Deuteronomy and from which we can learn the value and importance of courage.
There are two realms in which this parasha teaches us the importance of courage. One is in the realm of the battlefield and the other is in the realm of society and justice.
The main story that the parasha talks about is the episode of the spies. It tells us how the Israelites, when they heard the negative report about the land, were fearful, lost their sense of courage and refused to take up the battle of conquest.
In the realm of general society, the parasha talks about judges and their needs to stand up with faith and fearlessness against all outside pressure. They must respond to every case, whether it’s a great people or a lesser people, with the same sense of justice and equality.
Fear no man for God is the author of justice, tells us the Torah.
How do we as a society today in Israel stand up to this call of the parasha to bring courage into our lives?
I believe that the issue is complex, but we might say that in the realm of the battlefield, we have proven truly courageous. We have raised children to be soldiers who know how to defend their country and who have proven their courage and their valor on the battlefield again and again.
The other realm is the one where I believe we still need much work. There is the call of the parasha – לא תגורו מפני איש – fear not a single person when it comes to doing justice. When it comes to doing what is right, don’t allow yourselves to be intimidated by all the noise and all the curses and all the intimidations that people will make.
Know that you have one obligation and that is to carry out what is right.
Today in Israel, we live in difficult times and I believe that our parasha is calling upon us to gather together that sense of courage, that sense of לא תגורו מפני איש – do not allow all the outside noises to intimidate us.
In order for us to be the true people that we are meant to be, we must remember – חזק ואמץ – courage is required not only in the battlefield but also in society at large so that we can be the people we are meant to be.
Shavua Tov from Schechter.
David Frankel has served as a senior Bibile lecturer at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies since 1992. He earned his PhD at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of Prof. Moshe Weinfeld. His publications include “The Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School: and “The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel.” From 1991 to 1996, Rabbi Dr. Frankel was rabbi of Congregation Shevet Achim in Gilo, Jerusalem.