Blog Post


Parshat Shlach: Don’t Diss My ‘Hood

I don’t post a lot on Facebook. My weekly articles and videos I think usually make it up there. I won’t broadcast pics of my lunch or dinner, especially when it’s just a can of tuna and yoghurt. But a number of years ago there was an exception and it had to do with this week’s parsha of Shlach

There is a FB group formed for our neighborhood, Inside Hollywood where people post requests, items for sale, recommendations and the like. It can be entertaining, almost as much as Dan’s Deals but not quiteJust a few days ago a woman was “looking for a good urologist for my father.” It was not an anonymous post which I though a bit strange. Not sure if Dad wants that broadcasted.  

Anyway, a few years back a couple people dissed my ‘hood in that group with this post: PSA: I haven’t even moved into Hollywood (almost and we are still very excited!!) And unfortunately I was robbed in the Winn Dixie parking lot yesterday when I was picking up my children from the Machane Miami bus around 4:00pm. They stole 2 purses full of all my things right from the front passenger seat. Please be careful and don’t leave anything valuable in your cars there!! The police said it happens in that parking lot all the time!!

In the thread of ensuing comments, most expressing sympathy, someone else wrote that she heard there were a lot of muggings there as well. Since Aish is in that plaza and has been for many years, I felt a need to respond to the “There-are-lots-of-muggings-in-the-Winn-Dixie-plaza” lady. I told her that I have been there for 20 years, yet never heard of a mugging. I stressed that she should be a bit more careful before making such public declarations. She replied that it was in the news. I then asked her to please send the link. A bit later, when I went to look for it, her comment was deleted. Hmmm.

However the original smash and grab post remained, to which I wrote: I work there at Aish and have for twenty plus years. Never had this happen. Then again I never leave anything valuable in sight. I’ve parked there overnight for those 20 plus years of Shabbat and Yom Tovs. Nada.

Now why do I share this very local story with you? Because it contains an important lesson and is related to this week’s parsha. In Shlach we also have people who went around dissing a place and it did not end well.

Before the Israelites entered the land of Israel to conquer and dwell in it, they sent 12 scouts to spy it out. Their mission was a straightforward one: they were to check out the weak areas, observe how fertile the land was and see if the cities were fortified, all in preparation of the Israelites moving in. And off they went on their mission.

But what happened next was one of the greatest tragedies of our early history. Of these 12 spies, 10 returned with a very intimidating report of the strength of the countryside and its inhabitants. Rather than give an objective account of what they witnessed – which was their job – they instead insinuated their own personal interpretation of their observations. They convinced the Jewish people that the land and people of Canaan were very powerful, too powerful in fact to overcome, and if they tried to conquer it, they would be dead ducks.

The ensuing mass hysteria persuaded God that this generation was not worthy, nor ready to go into Israel. It was decreed that they would wander the Sinai desert 40 years until the entire older generation died off and the new, younger generation under Joshua’s leadership would build The Promised Land.

And so because these 10 men dissed the Land of Israel, forgot God’s protection and miracles that He wrought for them, they created a day of tragedy – Tisha B’Av – that became the basis for all future tragedies of our people. According to Jewish tradition, this event happened on the 9th of Av, a day of calamity for all time. 

You see LaShon Hara – the prohibition of speaking negatively about another for no positive purpose – doesn’t apply only to people but to places as well. Speaking negatively of a land, a neighourhood or a place can have very crushing long-term consequences. Just as our words affect how we feel and view another person, so too can our words affect how we feel and view a place. We need to be very careful before we go around gratuitously knocking the United States, Israel or Hollywood, Florida.

We are all extremely sensitive to this issue these days as Israel is continuously bombarded by false claims and evil narratives that are either complete and outright lies or distortions of the facts.

When we look further into this we need to realize that a place is whatever we make of it. You can have one person who has been in a place for 20 years and has had only good experiences there, and then you can have someone else in the exact same place, who visits once, and because of their careless behavior goes around telling everyone how dangerous it is. It is always easier to lay blame on one’s surroundings, environment or others rather than look at one’s own negligent behavior and see that as the true cause of misfortune.

This is what the spies did and this is what this Facebook person did. They projected their own failings onto the place rather than take responsibility for their own flaws. The spies were locked into their weak, slave mentality, saw themselves as grasshoppers that would be squashed and vanquished (Numbers 13:33), even admitted to such, and convinced everyone else of the same, leading to the demise of all.

The spies, and the sad generation of people who believed them, never made it into Eretz Yisrael. And just as well. With their attitude they could never have built it into the beautiful country and people that it became then, and that it is today.

Don’t like a place like Hollywood, FL or Israel? Think it’s too dangerous? No problem – stay away. And guess what? Everyone will be happier that you did.

I know you got your own town
I know you got your own ways
I know you got your own life…
I know there’s no place like home

But I know you gonna like it in my city
Everybody’s welcome here
Everybody welcome to my city
We ain’t got no worries here
I know you’re gonna like it in my city
-Priyanka Chopra

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