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G-d does what Michael Jordan did to empower his teammates. He believed in us because we already had that greatness embedded within.

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The 1996 Space Jam movie featuring basketball legend Michael Jordan alongside Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes | Photo: Warner Bros.

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One thing I love about Judaism is that, contrary to popular belief, we’re supposed to live with the times. 

What happened “then” didn’t just happen to our ancestors, but is something that happens to each one of us daily, too. As I was reading through this week’s parsha, Shelach, I was transported back in time to a scene from one of my favorite childhood movies, Space Jam.  

Released in 1996 by Warner Bros Entertainment Inc., Space Jam was an award-winning film that blended reality and cartoon in an action-packed adventure of basketball and perseverance. Invaded by aliens, the Looney Tunes establish the “Tune Squad” and challenge their “Monstars” opponents to a game of basketball – if the aliens lose, they would have to leave “Looney Tune Land” for good. The Tunes capture NBA All-Star, Michael Jordan, and he reluctantly agrees to help them prepare to face their opponents on the court. 

The Tunes begin their training and are filled with hope. On game day, there’s hype in the locker room, the whistler blows, and the Tune Squad is excited to put its newfound basketball skills to good use and save their future.   

Things start taking a turn for the worse. Glancing at the scoreboard before heading to the locker room at halftime, they begin to lose hope and even begin mentally preparing for a new life of alien-slavery. 

Michael empowers them to hold their heads high and not give up. They still have the second half to pick up their game. Meanwhile, as Michael gives the Tunes a pep talk in the locker room, Bugs Bunny fills up a bottle with water, which he secretly labels as “Michael’s Secret Stuff,” and convinces his teammates to take a drink. Feeling energized again, the Tune Squad makes its way back onto the court to face its opponents once more. With restored hope, they play harder than ever.

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But things start going downhill again. However hard they play, their opponents are that much stronger, faster, and larger. As they reach the third quarter, the Tunes begin giving up on themselves again. Michael tries to lift their spirits again, but it seems to be no use; all they can think of is that “Secret Stuff” – but there isn’t any. Michael assures them there never was all along. It was only water; they had the “Secret Stuff” inside of them the whole time. And so, they return to the court again.

This week we read the narrative of the 12 men Moses sends to scout out the Promised Land. It’s been a while since we left Egypt. The miraculous ten plagues and the splitting of the Reed Sea seem to be a distant past. We’ve been travelling through the desert for some time now and hope is running low. We complain. We want to return to Egypt – perhaps our slavery wasn’t as bad as we remembered.   

Would we be able to conquer the Land? Were we strong enough? G-d had redeemed us from Egypt, but would He be there for us again upon entering the Land? Would He help us win the battles we’d need to fight? So, in our doubt, we asked to send men to scout the Land: to learn what people inhabited it and how fortified its cities were, what the agriculture was like, and what foods it possessed. 

Bugs Bunny with Michael Jordan’s “Secret Stuff” drink in Space Jam

“Shlach lecha – send for yourselves,” G-d told us. I know what the Land is like. I know you’ll be able to successfully conquer it. I believe in you. But if you don’t believe in yourselves, that’s OK. You may send men ahead to confirm what I already know. G-d does what Michael Jordan did to empower his teammates. There’s no “Secret Stuff”. He believed in us because we already had that greatness embedded within. All we needed to do was believe in ourselves to access it.   

This isn’t the first time we read of such a command. Generations earlier, G-d called to Abraham, “Lech lecha…” – leave your land, your birthplace, and your parents’ home. Go into yourself, to the core of who you are. Leave everything that’s holding you back behind and come with Me to a new land. Look inside and you will find your greatness. 

What if we understood G-d’s command to Moses as we did His calling to Abraham? What if we sent emissaries into ourselves, strong and distinguished individuals, because each of us is unapologetically important but so often forgets our sense of worth because we get caught up in the rat-race of success around us? What if we realized the greatness buried within us, and started living life as if we were that person – regardless of how incapable we thought we were at that moment? What if, like Moses sent the men into the Promised Land, we sent ourselves to explore our core from its south all the way northward and realized that life is an evolving journey and not a final destination? 

Such a journey would be terrifying because it’s always easier to give in to our fears and self-doubts rather than facing life’s giants. 

The men completed their journey and reported their findings: Indeed it’s a land flowing with milk and honey…the cities are fortified and exceedingly large…there are giants…we were like grasshoppers in our eyes… (Num. 13:27-33). Contrary to popular opinion, the men weren’t incorrect in their report. It was a good land with luscious fruits, there were nations living in the land, and there were indeed giants.

But when is life ever smooth-sailing? When does everything always go the ways we expected it to? Has there ever been a successfully meaningful experience that didn’t require overcoming some type of fortresses or giant? 

In the movie, the Tunes only felt empowered after their Half Time break because they had a chance to drink “Michael’s Secret Stuff” – they were strong in their eyes at the time. But as soon as they went back on the court and began playing again, the giants re-emerged and the Tunes once again became like grasshoppers in their own eyes. The Monstars could sense their fear and self-doubt and took advantage of this vulnerability.

The Tune Squad working together to defeat the Monstars

Stop! cried Caleb, one of the men Moses sent on the mission. We will succeed, he urged them! We can conquer the challenges that lie ahead and the giants we perceive to be standing in our way! 

With the help of their new friend, Michael Jordan, the Looney Tunes ultimately overcome their fears and beat the giants. Michael returns home and the movie ends with the same lyrics as it began:  

There are miracles in life I must achieve

But first I know it starts inside of me

If I can see it, then I can be it

If I just believe it, there’s nothing to it 

I believe I can fly

I believe I can touch the sky

I think about it every night and day

Spread my wings and fly away

I believe I can soar

I see me running through that open door

I believe I can fly 

It happened then as it happens now – and it’ll happen again next week, in a few months’ time, and years down the road. To be human is to doubt ourselves and give up when things seem to get tough. But we can learn how to believe in ourselves. We can overcome those giants that tower in front of us. We can learn how to spread our wings and fly!

Jonah Simcha Chaim Muskat-Brown is a social worker and graduate of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He draws inspiration from an array of Jewish and secular ideas and utilizing both to see the holiness embedded within each individual.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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