This week’s Derech Tzofeh comes from Bruce Chudacoff, past president of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting. It is adapted from his weekly Torah comments for his Temple in North Port, Florida.
This week is Shabbat Shelach. It’s a made-for-Scouting Torah portion and Haftorah. The Israelites had not left Egypt very long before they reached the edge of the Promised Land. Moses had no idea what our people were facing in Canaan. He was a general, leading an Israelite army into a potential battle. He decided, at God’s urging, to find out what was there before he led the Israelites into the Promised Land.
God told him, “Send out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel. You shall send one man each for his father’s tribe; each one shall be a chieftain in their midst.”
Moses did just what a good Senior Patrol Leader would do. First, he thought out his problem. He needed to know what the people would face when they entered the land. He chose twelve scouts to go throughout Canaan and see what was there. He made a list of instructions for the scouts so they would know what to do and how to do it and a list of questions for them to answer.
Having planned the scouting mission first, Moses was ready to start it. He gave the twelve scouts very specific instructions on what to do. Had Moses been doing this today of course, he could have just sent out some drones to get the information. But in those days, scouts had no vehicles, no drones, no binoculars. All they had was their eyes and ears.
The scouts spent 40 days on their mission. They checked out the crops that the Canaanites and the Amalekites were growing and brought back grapes that looked pretty good. They reported to the entire congregation of the Israelites. They agreed that the Promised Land was flowing with milk and honey, just as promised. But then they said the cities were big and well-fortified, the inhabitants were fierce and there were giants there. All but Caleb and Joshua made this report. Moses and all the Israelites relied on the report of the majority of the scouts and decided that this was not the time to go into the Promised Land. As a result, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness for another 38 or so years and it was a new generation that entered the land.
The Haftorah for this week is from Joshua. It recounts the spy mission he sent two spies on. The spies are sent to Jericho and return with a correct report. The result is a stunning success. Like Moses, Joshua relies on and acts on the report of the spies. The Israelites enter the Promised Land and prosper.
We can learn much that applies to Scouting from these two stories. The most successful activities begin with a good plan. A good leader makes that plan with others who are experienced and have knowledge of what to do, just like Moses did with God’s help.
We also learn that it is important to teach the right skills and practice them. Moses chose people who had experience and were leaders themselves to go on the reconnaissance mission. He trained them for their mission by telling them what to do and how to do it.
Practice always helps make things better and that is the way we operate a successful Scout unit. We plan, we teach the right skills, we practice and then we carry out the plan. Moses’ and Joshua’s scouts carried out their two missions. They scouted out the land and found out what was there. They came back and reported.
Here is where we learn another important lesson for Scouting, the importance of reporting back correctly. Scouts always have others depending on them. In a Scouts BSA, Venturing or Exploring unit, each Scout needs to carry out his or her responsibilities because the rest of the unit depends on what they say and do. If someone makes an incorrect report, the whole unit can suffer from it, just as the Israelites did when ten of the twelve scouts reported back incorrectly.
As Scouts, we follow the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. While the consequences of our actions, both in and out of Scouting, usually aren’t as significant as those of Moses’ scouts and Joshua’s spies, it is important for us to always do what is right. The ripples from our actions can spread far and wide. We want to be like Caleb and Joshua and like Joshua’s spies, carry out our Scouting responsibilities and always be as accurate and forthright as possible.
Yours in Scouting,