Scouts! Ants! Shlach!

Scouts! Ants! Shlach!

Scout ants carry fruit for Parshat ShlachParshat Shlach. Scouts on my mind.

Still, I didn’t think much about our first scout. Probably crossed the threshold through our open front door. Or rode in on the back of a cat.

“Good morning!” Said my husband the next day. “We have ants.”

“Did you deport them?” I asked. 

“No,” he said. “I killed them.”

But they kept coming. In twos and threes, walking in wide circles along the kitchen counter. Occasionally I would reach down to pick one up, hoping to deport it out the back door. The little group would scatter, hide, and re-convene. 

Scouts!

For three days I kept the counter meticulously clean. Only one bowl of food stayed out. A fruit bowl with thick skinned avocado, orange, and banana.

On the third day, the scouts returned home. To the big collective, to file their report.

What kind of report did they bring? A mixed one, for sure.

“It’s a wow!” said some scouts. “Abundant! There’s giant fruit! A group of us working together could carry it home. Let’s do it!” 

“No,” said some other scouts. “It’s not safe. Not worth the risk. Giant animals live there, ready to swoop down and squash us like bugs!”

Imagine the community response. A thousand ants shouting, “No, no, no more risk! We lost too many on the last job.” One or two hushing the crowd to offer a counter-argument. “We are ants! Risk is what we do! Have faith in your comrades. We can bring back the goods!”

Oh my gosh, the Torah is such a funny document! 

You don’t get the joke yet? Here’s Parshat Shlach:

Twelve Israelite scouts report on their visit to the land of Canaan.

“Look at this giant fruit!” they say. “You need two people just to carry a cluster of grapes.”

“But,” they add, “the people are gigantic. Next to them, we feel like bugs!”

One scout wants to go back. “We can do it!”

Ten scouts disagree. “The place will eat us.”

Israelites melt down. Moses and Aaron fall on their faces. God loses patience.

The irony? Bugs are powerful. Think ants, bees, moths, locusts. If these insects decide to invade, we cannot stop them.

If only the Israelites had felt more like bugs. Determination. Courage. Mutual support. Imagine the community response!

For more perspectives on Parshat Shlach (Numbers 13:1-15:41), click here.

6 Comments
  1. You made my day! All animals big and small have a certain behaviour we as humains have a lot to learn from.

    1. Thanks, Michele! I agree, we have a lot to learn.

  2. This parashah was our petite youngest daughter’s bat mitzvah. In her speech she joked, :The spies said, ‘We were in their eyes as grasshoppers, and so we were in our own.” [Dramatic pause}. Story of my life!”

    And by way of synchronicity, we seem to have an ant spy delegation in our house right now.

    1. What an adorable self-reflective moment from a young teen! At least in retrospect.

      Regarding ants, a seasonal synchronicity to be sure.

  3. When I was in Costa Rica, our guide in the rain forest told us about the ant colonies and how they work and survive.
    He picked up an ant and gave it a small stick of at least 8 inches long. The ant took hold (with its teeth?) and held on to the stick. Sort of amazing to see how that tiny ant was holding on to that relatively large stick!!!

    1. It is amazing how strong their bodies are. Here’s something else amazing. In a book about ants and bees, noted entomologist (and ecologist and sociobiologist) E.O. Wilson said that some ants in the colony don’t follow the developmental rules about who does what but choose their own jobs.

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