Let’s Talk About Risk-Taking

This week’s parasha, Shlach, contains the famous story of the 12 scouts sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. They return, and all but Joshua and Caleb have dire warnings, including the famous line that the inhabitants of Canaan “were like giants…and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.”

With this news, the Israelites’ joy turned to fear and despair, losing faith and challenging the leadership of Moses and Aaron to the point where they cried out for a return to Egypt. The outcome of these events is tragic. God destroys the ten scouts who incited the community, sparing only Caleb and Joshua. The generation that lost faith never saw Canaan and only their descendants were privileged to reach The Promised Land.

This episode, along with the Golden Calf, tells us about the dire consequences of the loss of faith. In both instances, the lack of trust led to death and destruction. What can we learn from these dramatic examples?

As individuals, we are often faced with decisions that, given the “facts” available to us, point us in a direction of inaction. “It’s too hard,”  “We can’t,”  “It’ll never work.” Sound familiar?

This is not to say that facts have no place in our decision-making; to the contrary, data (like that which we have recently collected in our Jewish Community Study) is critical. But many decisions both in our personal lives, and in the life of our community, require some measure of risk and even faith.

It is important to have individual and collective “risk tolerance” as this can inspire us to try new and innovative approaches to old challenges. In order to take risks, we must be able to have faith in ourselves as leaders and to have faith in the strength and abilities of our community.


Here are ways to Make It Yours this week: