What was the news? It was announced that Vegan friendly Fruit Gums, Fruit Pastilles and Jelly Tots were now approved Parev by KLBD!!
That evening I went into a store and bought a packet. As I walked out of the shop, I opened the packet, and then I looked around, I wanted to announce that Fruit Pastilles (never liked the Fruit Gums) were now Kosher and don’t worry, this nice Jewish boy is not eating treif, but I didn’t and just made the bracha and ate my first fruit pastille in about 40 years.
It was delicious.
For those of you who may be wondering why they were not kosher for 40 years, you obviously don’t understand Anglo Jewry. They were never kosher, but back then, I and most of my friends’ families who pretty much kept kosher, would eat Monster Munch, Quavers (l LOVED them, if they ever become Kosher, I would be ecstatic!) and of course Fruit Pastilles.
So why did we eat them and why did we stop eating them?? Not surprisingly the answer can be gleaned from this week’s Parsha.
Shelach also contains an historic day.
Tisha B Av
As we know, when the spies brought back their negative report about the land of Israel, the people listened to the hopeless message they brought back instead of listening to Yehoshua and Calev – and they cried.
Rabbi Yocḥanan said: That night was the night of the Ninth of Av. Hashem said to them: ‘You wept needlessly that night, and I will therefore establish for you a true tragedy over which there will be weeping in future generations.’ Taanit 29a
The question: how could it have gone so wrong?
These were the leaders of the nation, great people. They believed in Hashem, surely they knew they could overcome the battles with the inhabitants of the land. They had seen Hashem’s victory over the Egyptians and others – so why bring back a negative report?
The answer given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe is fascinating. It was not that they feared failure of not conquering the land. They feared success!
As Rabbi Sacks explains:
If they entered the land, their lifestyle of camping around the Sanctuary, eating manna from heaven, living in continuous contact with the Shechinah would vanish. They would have to fight battles, maintain an army, create an economy, farm the land, worry about the weather and their crops, and all the other thousand distractions that come from living in the world. What would happen to their closeness to God? They would be preoccupied with mundane and material pursuits. Here they could spend their entire lives learning Torah, lit by the radiance of the Divine. There they would be one more nation in a world of nations with the same kind of economic, social, and political problems that every other nation has to deal with.
Bottom line, they were scared of change. They believed where they were was the ideal, there was no need for change. Unfortunately, their decision meant that they got their wish, they stayed with Moshe, outside of Israel along with their entire generation for 40 years.
40 years ago, I and many of my friends faced a challenge.
We were very Jewish, we went to shul most Shabbatot, we had Shabbat meals, we were part of youth movements, but we weren’t religious. We ate foods that we thought were ‘kosher’, as far as we knew they were, no one told us otherwise.
However, as we went through our teenage years, we made a choice to gradually embrace a more religious lifestyle, we learnt that things we thought were kosher were not, we learnt that things we thought we could do on Shabbat, we couldn’t and we were realised how much more we could be if we connected to a more observant lifestyle. This eventually led to us going to where Moshe was never able – Eretz Yisrael, for a year in Yeshiva or Sem.
For many of us, this was not easy. Not all our friends went down similar paths.
However, we were a different generation from our parents. They were born in the 30’s and 40’s, a very different world from the 60’s and 70’s when we were born. I am proud to say that many in my generation became more observant and more knowledgeable than their parents, but did it in a way that kept the family together and, in many instances, helped the whole family to grow and embrace Judaism more fully.
A huge part of the reason for our change was our engagement with Bnei Akiva, which I credit not just then, but before and after, to demonstrate to young people that change was possible. That change was encouraged by wonderful madrichim and madrichot whose personal example was wonderful. I was also blessed by growing up in the remarkable community of Kingsbury where my family and I received so much.
The reason why we were able to make the change was that we already had a strong Jewish background, the step up to increased observance was not a huge leap but very much a natural part of the journey many of us had been on. To this day it has taught me the value of beginning the educational journey as early as possible.
So, 40 years ago, I stopped eating fruit pastilles, my Judaism had grown to such a level that I realised that this was something I should not be eating anymore. 40 years later, I found myself smiling at my 11-year-old self, realising how the taste of the sweets hadn’t changed but the person eating them had.
This week we read of the nation’s punishment, sentenced to 40 years of wandering because their leaders were afraid of change. 40 years later, under Yehoshua their children eventually entered, they willingly changed from a nation wandering in the wilderness under Hashem’s protection to a proud Nation building their home in the land of Israel.
Today is my fathers third Yahrzeit. The person who introduced me to shul, who showed me the importance of working for the community and was always proud of how my brother and I grew in our Jewish observance. And who eventually moved to build his home in the land of Israel.
Shelach Lecha is a painful parsha to read, but the message we can learn from the lesson of the spies is to realise that sometimes, not only is change necessary, it is what Hashem truly desires.