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Rabbi Kalmar's Sermon - 28 Sivan 5780

“How the Muppets and the Spies have something to tell us about what we might be missing”


I want to share a conversation with you from Jim Henson's Muppets:

Fozzie Bear - “Kermit! Don’t look Now.  Don’t look! But there is somebody underneath me! Don’t Look! Don’t Look!  Oh you know what – there’s somebody underneath you too!  You know what – he’s got a beard!   


Kermit -  “Well of course Fozzie. But of course.  Those are puppeteers. “   Fozzie – “What?”


Kermit – “Those are Puppeteers.  We’re Puppets.”  Fozzie – “What?”

Kermit – “We’re Puppets.  They work us”  


Fozzie – “I can’t understand that concept.”


The Spies in this week’s parsha were sent by God and Moshe to spy out the land.  They went there to come back and report on the status of the people and the land that the Jewish people were being sent to conquer.  And so they did.     They reported on the fruit of the land and on the people who were there and on their positions – which nation was in which place.   They did what spies are supposed to do – they reported the facts on the ground. 


But the problem was that they didn’t stop there. They offered their assessment of the facts. 


לֹ֥א נוּכַ֖ל לַעֲל֣וֹת אֶל־הָעָ֑ם כִּֽי־חָזָ֥ק ה֖וּא מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃

 “We cannot go up against that people, for it is stronger than we.”

 Had they forgotten that they were living in a time of miracles?  They had only recently left Egpyt after the 10 plagues.  They had witnessed the splitting of the sea.  They had heard God speak at the mountain of Sinai!  They were living in spectacular times – times when God’s hand was apparent in the world.


“We cannot go up against that people?”   How could they have forgotten how they got there?   Didn’t they realize that God was with them – that God’s presence was apparent? 


The problem of the spies was similar to Fozzie’s – we have a hard time with that concept.  The concept that we are not in charge and that Someone Else is.  That is hard to accept.  And even once we accept it – it is easy to forget.


In June 1967 – following the events of the Six Day War, the Rav. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik addressed the Rabbinical Council of America and said – “paraphrasing Kohelet -  there is a time of greatness and a time of smallness. There is a time of joyous ecstasy and a time of boredom. There is time of small incidents and there is a time of great events.  And we indeed are living in a time of greatness which rises like the peak of a tall mountain above the ordinary time flux.  Gone is the monotony of a sterile history.  Of small workaday incidents which lack the subtlety and depth of great history. We are experiencing events of tremendous magnitude.  We hear the footsteps of the Almighty – walking in the historical garden of eden.”    


Everyone recognized the greatness of God’s intervention at that time. 


At the beginning of the Pandemic – we all felt – this is not normal.  It was not a time of joyous celebration like the return of the site of the Temple after the Six Day War.  But it was a time when we were living through events of great magnitude.  We were feeling the footsteps of the Almighty.

And we were certainly being sent the message – we are not in control.   Someone else is pulling the strings.   All the things we thought we knew – the doctors said it won’t come here.  It wont spread.  They said kids don’t get it – then they said kids do get it.  They said don’t wear masks. Then they said don’t wear masks. They said asymptomatic people can’t spread it – then they said – they can spread it.  They said worry about surfaces, then they said – don’t worry about surfaces.    Doctors, World Health Organization, our governments – experts – have time and again had to admit that what they thought – was wrong.  Time and again – the biggest take away was – we are not in control. 


Now that we are going back to work, to play, to minyan – we think – we are in control again.


Later in the Parsha - the Maapilim – those who wanted to go to Israel after Moshe told them all how they had messed up – they thought they were in control.  But they weren’t they tried to go up – when it was too late – and they were routed.


Biggest lesson from the muppets and the spies – we are not in control.


What are we supposed to learn from that?  All the lessons I’ve been sharing the past 13 weeks and more?     Not sure.  But problem now is – that just like Fozzie Bear – we are no pulling the strings – and “I can’t understand that concept” – that we are not in control.  But it is key that we keep that in mind – that all the lessons we were supposed to be learning – about caring for others and not being selfish, about how all of humanity is in the same boat and not to bore a hole in the bottom of that boat, about the need for bringing people together and not driving them apart – I’m concerned that we are going to forget those lessons. 


Of course we are not puppets.  God gives us free choice and wants us to do things with that choice.  But we are not pulling the strings either.  And the sooner we remember that lesson, the happier we will be and the closer we will be to fulfilling our real purpose in this world.   Of recognizing, appreciating and publicizing God’s presence in the world.   

Wed, July 6 2022 7 Tammuz 5782