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By Yonatan Sredni
The Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation, The Tzofim, is celebrating its 90th birthday this year. To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with members of the Tzofim at his office last week where he recounted stories of his youth in the Tzofim’s Modiin troop in Jerusalem.
But Netanyahu is not the only world leader who was a Scout. Apparently, US President Barack Obama was a Boy Scout (or Cub Scout) growing up in Jakarta; and recently President Obama accepted his role (as every previous US President for the last century has) as the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America.
But what lesson can be imparted to the young Scouts of today? Well, the Scouts’ motto has always been ‘Be Prepared’ (‘Heye Nachon’ in Hebrew). What does it mean to be prepared? The last time I can recall where a nation was caught totally unprepared was September 11, 2001.
But being prepared means more than just being constantly at the ready.
In the third part of “Scouting for Boys” Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouts movement, explains the meaning of the phrase:
The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.
But ‘Scouts’ have been around even longer than just a century, since biblical times. Our Torah portion this week, Shlach, tells how Moses sent 12 Scouts (one from each tribe) to scout out the Promised Land before the Israelites were to enter it.
- · Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
- · Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.
At the end of 40 days, they returned and reported to Moses, Aaron, and the whole Israelite community saying that the land did indeed flow with milk and honey, but that the people who inhabited it were powerful, the cities were fortified and very large, and that they saw giants there. They spoke ill of the land, calling it “one that devours its inhabitants.” They reported that the land’s people were much stronger than the Israelites. As a result of their negative report, the whole community broke into crying, railed against Moses and Aaron, and shouted: “If only we might die in this wilderness!”
God punished the faithlessness of that generation of Israelites by decreeing that they would not enter the land and that only their children would enter the Promised Land after roaming the wilderness for 40 years, corresponding to the number of days that the scouts scouted the land. The scouts, other than Caleb and Joshua who spoke well of the land saying, ‘"The land we passed through to scout is an exceedingly good land.”, died of plague.
The biblical story of the ‘Scouts’ (spies) is a constant reminder not to speak badly of the land of Israel and that we must have faith that things will work out for the best.
Let’s hope that our two famous Scouts, Obama and Netanyahu, will ‘Be Prepared’ and speak well of Israel and its residents. Otherwise we may spend a lot more than just 40 years wandering in the wilderness.
Oh, and one last point, when the 10 spies gave their negative report, and said conquering and settling the land of Israel couldn’t be done, it was Caleb who said, “We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it. (Numbers 13:30)". Or in simple terms, he was saying, “Yes, we can!”
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The writer has an MA in Creative Writing from Bar-Ilan University.
from the July 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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