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Today, in our tumultuous world, we too need to adhere to our "Divine fires”, perhaps, more than ever. We too need to be rooted in ideals that are greater than us, that warm us and illuminate our lives, so that the coldness and darkness do not overpower us.

Rabbi Allouche

What was the secret to their success? 

Only two of the twelve spies – Yehoshua and Caleb – succeeded in their mission to successfully explore the land of Israel, with vision and optimism, as we read about in this week’s portion. But how did they see light, when all others could see, was darkness? Why did they feel hope, when others were conquered by despair? 

The answer is telling: Yehoshua and Caleb were deeply anchored, and unwaveringly connected, to something greater than themselves. Before their departure on this great mission, they both went to draw strength and inspiration from the source of their connection: Joshua received the blessing of his teacher, Moses, and Caleb went to pray for success in his mission, at the resting places of our patriarchs and matriarchs in Chevron. 

During my rabbinic studies in Milan, Italy, the “Rebbetzin” of the city, Mrs. Bassie Garelik, shared with us a revealing moment: The year was 1959. She was preparing to leave her vibrant community in New York to assume the mantle of Jewish leadership in Milan alongside her husband, Rabbi Gershon Garelik.

Suddenly, a teacher of old approached her with a sharp criticism: “You’re doing a mistake,” her teacher remarked. “Why would you leave your vibrant community to lead the assimilated Jews of Italy? The secularism of Italian society will permeate your home, and influence you negatively. Bassie, you will lose it all!” And her teacher persisted: “Analogically, it is like taking warm waters, and mixing them with cold waters. You are warm, but Italy is cold. Ultimately, your warm waters will become cold.”

Astounded by her teacher’s harsh words, Mrs. Garelik replied unhesitatingly: “Teacher, you are correct. However, your analogy is true only if the warm waters are taken off their source of fire. But if they remain on it, they will forever remain warm.”

Until this very day, Mrs. Garelik has “remained on her source of fire,” connected and guided by Torah and the values of her heritage, and she has thrived. Today, Italy’s Jewry is blossoming, and it is much because of her, and her source of fire. 

Today, in our tumultuous world, we too need to adhere to our “Divine fires”, perhaps, more than ever. We too need to be rooted in ideals that are greater than us, that warm us and illuminate our lives, so that the coldness and darkness do not overpower us. In the words of my friend, Rabbi Daniel Lapin: “The more things change, the more we must rely on things that do not change.” 

And so, I beg you; let us follow the example set forth by Joshua and Caleb, Mrs. Garelik, and so many others. Let us connect to the values of our heritage, to the principals of our tradition, to the light of our Divine fire. 

Let us pick one mitzvah, one good deed, or perhaps even one role model and shining ancestor to learn from, and let us allow their lights to permeate, warm us, and illuminate our lives, and our world.