The power of recognition is a fascinating feature of our minds. What gives us the ability to recognize another person? Or the street on which we used to live? What about recognizing when someone is telling the truth? "I just knew she was being truthful. It was obvious."

One of our great problems in life is the fact that we often do not recognize the world around us for what it really is. For many reasons we allow ourselves to be deceived; in fact, it might be incredibly difficult to see things in a clear way. Then, sometimes, we suddenly recognize the truth. Immediately everything looks different.

This week's Torah reading1 provides an example. At this point, the Jewish people were poised to enter the Promised Land. They had gone through a wonderful series of events. They had seen the miraculous destruction of the power of Egypt and had experienced the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. These were phenomenal events which the world has never forgotten. Their goal, as they had been told by Moses long before, was to enter the Promised Land. They would fulfill the promise which G‑d gave to their ancestor Abraham: to make Israel into a Jewish spiritual center for the whole world.

Twelve spies were sent to the Land of Israel. Their job was to give a report to the Jewish people. You've guessed it. This is where the problem starts. The spies saw a wonderful country, which was inhabited by strong, tall people: hardly a surprise. But they came to the conclusion that the mission was impossible. They claimed that the Jews would never be able to enter the Land promised them by G‑d.

When the Jewish people heard this report they began weeping. They forgot everything that had gone before. Fear dominated their minds. There was no hope. "If only we had died in the desert! Let's go back to Egypt!" they shouted wildly.

The Torah then describes the next steps, which were actually part of a process of Recognition. Recognition of what is true and genuine, despite appearances and false claims. G‑d told Moses that as a result of their weeping, the Jewish people would have to wander in the desert for forty years. That entire generation of adults would live comfortable lives, eating manna from heaven. But only their children would enter the Land.

When Moses told this to the Jewish people, they suddenly recognized the truth. How wrong they had been! A large group said "Let's go! We will go to the Land! Come on!" They rushed up the hill leading towards the Promised Land.2

What had changed? Nothing! Why should they now suddenly believe in G‑d's power, while previously they thought they should go back to Egypt?

The answer given by Chassidic teachings is that deep within us, the soul knows the truth all the time. We sometimes adopt, or are presented with, a false perspective on life. But this is superficial. Deep down we have the power to recognize reality.3

From this comes our power to recognize our responsibilities and our destiny today, as individuals and as a people. We are often confused by false messages, some of which come from the environment, and some we create ourselves. Yet deep within us is the power of Recognition. This helps us know who we are, where we come from and where we are going: to the Promised Land.