This had to be about the President.
The D’var Torah at Shachris brought out the Rashi (s.v. החזק הוא הרפה) quoting the Midrash Tanchuma (Shlach 6) presenting Moshe’s counterintuitive Mosaic instruction to the meraglim: “if they live in open cities they are strong, since they evidently rely on their own strength, but if they live in fortified cities they are weak”.
This had to be about The Wall.
The speaker instead referred to R’ Sacks’ exposition on this Rashi/Medrash, the gist being: “what is the appropriate mode of engagement between Jews and the wider society?…The story of the spies tells us that our fears are sometimes exaggerated. Judaism is strong enough to withstand any challenge. The question is now as it was then: do we have the confidence of our faith?”
Fair enough: but how does one reconcile this with notions of “om ani chomah”, and the attendant midrashim indicating for the near-imperative to build “spiritual walls”?
A closer look at Shir haShirim 8:8-10 might indicate that the wall directive isn’t as universally imperative as assumed—and further underscore R’ Sacks’ points, on both individual and collective levels.
Verse 8:8 asks: “We have a little sister, Whose breasts are not yet formed. What shall we do for our sister when she is spoken for?” The verse seems to be using an archetype of physical immaturity as a metaphor for a lack of preparation for both intellectual and emotional challenges, and a number of commentaries refer to the “spoken for” reference as a possibility that “little sister” will be taken either by a King, or by a power alien to Judaism.
R’ Sacks observes that “Jews were, in John Murray Cuddihy’s telling phrase, “latecomers to modernity.”…Two centuries ago, segregation and the voluntary ghetto might have been the right response. Jews were not ready for the challenge of Europe and Europe was not ready for the challenge of the Jews. But now is not then. Ours is not the age of the spies but of their descendants, born in freedom.”
There might be/have been a time to “put up walls”, as it were:
*Early childhood education: even secular educators have decried the abandonment of teaching basic morals to the point that some have said “if we want to educate our children to be liberal, we need to teach them conservatively.” The “little sister” will hopefully not remain “little” forever, intellectually or spiritually. Unless an educational program looks like this:
“I recently spoke to a group of school principals in Borough Park and urged them to accept that students may be different and recognize that not every student will “fit into the one size fits all box” which our system has evolved into. … A few weeks after my lecture, one of the principals met me and in front of a group of women, made a point of telling me that she disagreed with what I said and walked out of the room during my speech to display her rejection of my hashkafos…This principal reminded me of what we learned about the inhabitants of Sedom who were notorious for forcing everyone’s uniformity.”
*In a similar vein, note that that the far left are building their “walls” to force inclusivity and restrict expression. Not for naught did Communist societies feature “reeducation” camps. Even the most brutal Western facilities are “correctional”. Sometimes a wall eventually resembles Migdal Bavel; or, in the light of this weeks parsha and the question about Canaanite fortifications: maybe the Canaanite walls were an early attempt at social engineering mirroring the efforts of today’s hard intersectional progressives. The Canaanite and Nimoridan programs couldn’t catch on unless they were coerced.
The salient point remains that there are times where a restrictive approach might be needed, but not in perpetuity. There comes a point where we have to act like we’ve grown up and start placing doors in the walls, if we need to leave them up at all.