Subjectivity. The Webster’s Dictionary definition of subjective is “relating to the way a person experiences things in his or her own mind, based on feeling or opinions, rather than facts.” This week’s Torah portion deals with the nature of subjectivity. Chapter 13 of the Book of Numbers contains the narrative of the scouts sent out by Moses to scout out the Land of Canaan, the land already promised by God to the Israelites. That, in and of itself, is a test of the subjective, for what is it that they are scouting? It is not whether or not to go, but rather to discern what it is that they see in a place to which they are already committed to live and grow.
The adage ‘What you see is what you get’ is often meant in the context of there being no hidden agenda to something, that what is visible is all that there is. In this case, it becomes much more than that; the facts of what things are is not disputed, but the way we interpret them and value them, how we see things play out in our own lives….that is in fact what we get. The same circumstances/facts/details with each person seeing them differently – we each respond to them differently and therefore end up with different results.
Life is all about how we see things. And, how we see things affects how others who rely on us understand a situation. The scouts each had their own perspective –ten of them saw the people there as giants and even presumed that they saw us as if ‘we were like grasshoppers.’ Their own perspective of themselves clouded the truth in front of them. Two of the scouts, Joshua and Caleb, saw the same circumstances, the same situation – but they saw possibility, they saw the hope of today, they saw the promise of tomorrow. Caleb and Joshua succeed and endure because of their faith in how they were to view and understand what they saw before them.
Especially at this time for me, all that I am dealing with is primarily about my own perspective. Moving, new job, new surroundings, planting roots in a new community – that can be fraught with anxiety and tension, or with promise and hope, all depending on how I see and encounter each step that I have to take to get there. Like the Israelites, each of my days now are filled with steps both ‘away from’ and ‘toward’. While my move is not one away from oppression as it was for the Israelites, the definition of a journey implies not merely movement, but movement with directionality and purpose. My journey now is scouting out what is ahead so I can be best prepared for what lies ahead, seeing things in a positive light, a new chapter of life, with new possibilities. Whether through a large transition or in the unfolding of a day, what you get is what you are willing and able to see.
[Sh’lach L’cha 2014]