80% or 20%?

Friday, 28 June, 2019 - 8:31 am

Listen to something that for me is a key point in life.

A friend of mine was about to open a new business in a field that was quite crowded. I am not a businessman, and I don’t understand much about these things, but this was a long time ago, when I saw myself as being very wise, and I thought it only right to inform him that the market is very crowded in the area he is going into. He is taking a great risk, I said, and added a few more things that clueless people say to someone who is trying to open a new business. The friend, who is about twenty years older than me, said: “From my experience, the founders of eighty percent of the businesses you see around her were told by eighty percent of the people they spoke to that the business will not succeed due to some “logical” reason or another. The businesses that survived were those of good businessmen who listened to only twenty percent of their advisors.”

His business, by the way, is alive and kicking and producing a good living for his family, Thank G-d.

And, also by the way, since then I don’t feel so wise anymore.

Parashat Shelach is a lesson for life.

Before facing any challenge, and during one as well, it is worthwhile to open the parasha and study it – or even just read it as a story.

In any challenging situation or before any fateful decision we have in front of us the data. The data is dry, almost black-and-white. Our decision will depend on our interpretation of these data or events – the color we will give them. Will we leave them in black, will we paint them in glowing colors of pink and yellow, or will we choose heavy, dark grays and browns?

Twelve leaders of the nation went to tour the land. They were in it for forty days, saw all of it: the giant, fierce people, the beautiful vistas, its large and well-fortified cities and its mountains, some of which were settled by the Hittites, the Yevusites and the Emorites. They saw and even carried jointly its huge, heavy fruits. They also toured its streams and rivers, where the Canaanites lived. They all agreed that it was a land flowing with milk and honey.

These were the data. The rest was interpretation.

Almost like in my friend’s statement, here, too, eighty-three percent of the twelve people sent painted the data black, gray and brown. “But the people that dwell in the land are powerful… We cannot ascend to that people for it is too strong for us… the land devours its inhabitants.” And, of course, the wonderful summary that explains all: “and we were like grasshoppers in our eyes,” so, naturally, “so we were in their eyes.”

But Calev ben Yefuneh, a bit like my friend, painted those exact same details in entirely different colors: We shall surely ascend and conquer it… the land that we passed through to spy it out – the land is very, very good! If Hashem desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey.”

And this, friends, is the entire story – the story of the lives of all of us.

May we be successful in our endeavors!


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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