Within our Torah portion this week is a remarkable exchange between Moses and God. We remember that Moses sends twelve scouts, one from each of the tribes, to scout out the Land of Israel. The scouts return with fruits of the Land, but ten of them bring reports of doom and gloom: “It is a land that devours its inhabitants. . . There were giants in the land, and we were as grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we must have been in theirs.” (Numbers 13.32-33) But the other two, Joshua and Caleb, dissent: “The Land is an exceedingly good land; a land filled with milk and honey. . . Let us by all means go up, for we will surely conquer it.” (Numbers 13.27, 30) Unfortunately the crowd sides with the naysayers.
At this God becomes exasperated with the Children of Israel. Virtually since they left Egypt they have whined and complained, and rebelled against the divinely appointed leadership of Moses. Even after the marvels and miracles, they have little faith in God’s power. God is ready to zap them into oblivion. But Moses intervenes. Ever the loyal buffer, Moses tries to mollify the Almighty. And he does it with a little “psychology,” if you will. To paraphrase: “Almighty, You went to all this trouble to free these people from the bondage of Egypt, and deliver them into the Land. And now you’re going to mess it all up? How would it look, especially to the Egyptians? Do You want them to think You’re a phony, or a turncoat, or that You don’t actually have the power that You claim to have? What will THEY say?!”
Many of us generally try not to fall into the trap of worrying about “what THEY will say,” whoever “THEY” happen to be at any given moment. If we second-guess our every action, our every word, our every decision in life based on what THEY will say, we risk paralyzing ourselves in the fear that nothing will ever be good enough.
On the other hand, there just might be some usefulness, on occasion, for us indeed to worry about what THEY will say. We do not live in isolation from one another. Our words and actions, even our appearance at times, can and do have an effect on other people. We represent ourselves, so to speak, as we present ourselves to those around us. Often, we represent others as well: our families, our organizations, various groups with which we are associated. On certain occasions then, it might not be all that harmful if, before we speak or behave, or appear, we consider how this will be perceived in the eyes of others, and how it will reflect upon ourselves and others whom we care about.
What will THEY say? Not the end-all and be-all, but a question worthy of consideration.