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Parashat Shlach Lecha: Repairing the broken with Gold

There is a Japanese technique called kintsukuroi that celebrates the history of broken objects. When something breaks, we often regret it. We tend to set it aside or dispose of it, throwing it away. In the best-case scenario, we glue it back together with a barely noticeable adhesive, so the piece looks whole again. 

Instead of hiding the fractures, kintsukuroi highlights them by repairing the ceramic pieces with lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum powder. This practice not only restores the object's functionality but also enhances its beauty and history, turning the broken piece into a renewed object of greater value.


In kintsukuroi, the cracks are filled with gold powder, symbolizing that scars should be celebrated and honored.


In Shlach Lecha, our weekly parasha, Moses sends 12 spies at the Lord's request to Canaan to investigate whether it was a conquerable land. Remember that ten of the spies said it wasn't; they described it as a land of giants who would see them as insects. Those 10 spies of the 12 sent returned truly terrified and conveyed that fear to the entire People of Israel. But there were two meraglim, two of the spies, who had a very different vision. Caleb ben Yefune and Joshua ben Nun conveyed to Moses and the people that it was indeed possible to conquer the land with the help of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and with the commitment of the entire people of Israel.


Due to this positive vision, despite opposing the rest of the group's opinion, they were the only ones of that generation who entered the Promised Land. The rest of the people were condemned to 40 years of wandering in the desert until the old generation that left Egypt perished, as they couldn't stop thinking about returning to enjoy the supposed comfort of Pharaoh's dependence, even in the midst of slavery. The people were angry with Caleb and Joshua. They did not accept this optimism and faith against the negative report of the other 10 spies.


At the same time, imagine the disappointment, the heartbreak of being in the uncertainty of the desert, heading towards a promised land and encountering this discouraging vision. More so, finding out they would die in the desert after 40 years of wandering in circles.


Since then, we often face the same question: How do we confront reality, with optimism and faith or with despair and fear?


Since October 7, 2023, many of us are literally broken. With broken hearts, we try to stand firm against the brutal and irrational resurgence of anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Shocked by the extent of the Muslim extremism infiltration in increasingly diverse countries and important cities worldwide, influencing governments and universities. Alarmed by the unimaginable fate of our brothers kidnapped by terror in Gaza and the divisions in Israeli society, which cries out for the promise of bringing them home while expressing the urgency for a significant change in political leadership, adding only uncertainty and shame to our people.


The differences and debates in Israeli society resonate with every Jew around the world. The more we show our fragmentations and fail to recover our common legacy, the more exposed we are to our enemies. Will we be able to remember our common identity and our great history, despite our differences, to find a meeting point for better coexistence among ourselves and with our neighbors?


We are living extremely concerning times, not only in Israel but around the world. Last night's debate leaves us with terrible uncertainty about the future of our society in America. It was not very different from when I watched the presidential debate in Argentina a few months ago. We continue to live in a violent world regulated by who disrespects their opponent more or who oppresses the one they can trample on more.


How will we "repair" ourselves?


Our broken hearts, our shattered hope, and our devastated trust in those who represent us make us like those broken objects that kintsukuroi restores. Just as kintsukuroi transforms broken objects into works of art, we can find meaning and purpose in our own fractured experiences.


The story in Parshat Shlach Lecha occurred without an external enemy. We undermined ourselves. Only two spies stood before the disheartened people, urging them to continue the journey together, declaring, "the land is very, very good." There is a common story; we will overcome the difficulties, let's move forward.


They were right. I wish we could speak, act, and think like them. In our ancestral land, these are times of war on all fronts, with many and valuable losses of young people defending it. There is no perfection in this land that continues to devour its inhabitants, as the 12 negative spies said, but it is the only one we have. Both kintsukuroi and Parashat Shlach Lecha invite us to appreciate the beauty of imperfection and find hope in restoration.


Both remind us that our scars can be part of our history and our healing, and that renewal can be a path to wholeness and beauty, improving ourselves, our society, and our world.


Once again, only Tikkun Olam.


Let's pray together for a better world, with better politicians around us and in the State of Israel, for peace in Israel and throughout the entire world, and for the liberation of the hostages and everyone who is oppressed or suffering due to the injustice and arrogance of those who assume that broken hearts do not react to power.


Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gustavo Geier


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