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Weekly Thought - Shelach

Friday, 4 June, 2010 - 2:00 am

This week's parsha discusses the twelve spies sent by Moshe Rabbenu to survey Eretz Yisroel. Unfortunately, they returned with an unfavorable report. As a result, Hashem decreed that Bnei Yisroel would remain in the midbar for forty years, and the entire generation that left Mitzrayim would die there.

The following questions arise while learning this parsha.

1.What was Moshe Rabbenu’s intention in sending spies? Hashem had already told him that Eretz Yisroel is good land.

2.Why do we blame the spies for giving a bad report? They were merely reporting their perspective about what they had witnessed. Blaming them would be similar to going to an accountant for a financial review of a business, then firing the accountant if he reports that the business is losing money! It is not the accountant’s fault that the business is failing!?

3.When the spies reported that it was impossible to conquer Eretz Yisroel, why did Bnei Yisroel believe them? Throughout their journeys in the midbar, Bnei Yisroel lived with daily miracles. If you were to ask them about their breakfast, they would speak of the mon. If you asked about drinking water, they would tell you that it was provided by Miriam's well. They didn’t need new clothes or shoes, or even laundry! The Clouds of Glory continuously protected them from the burning heat of the desert. With all these miracles, how could they possibly think that Hashem could not take them to Eretz Yisroel? What went wrong? Why did they weep?

Without Chassidus and the Rebbe's Sichos, it is difficult to grasp the true meaning of  this parsha. The Rebbe explains that Moshe Rabbenu had no doubt that Bnei Yisroel could conquer Eretz Yisroel. Moshe Rabbenu sent people to scout, not to spy, the land. The difference between a scout and a spy is that a scout reports solely what they see and no more. The generals, in turn, use that information to make decisions on how to proceed. On the other hand, a spy not only gathers information, but also evaluates and analyzes what he sees. He then presents his opinion on whether or not the conquest would be successful.

Moshe Rabbenu was not concerned about whether Bnei Yisroel would conquer it was how they would conquer Eretz Yisroel. Bnei Yisroel were destined to fight to occupy Eretz Yisroel. The reason this is because a person appreciates something for which he has toiled far more than if it was presented on a silver platter. Therefore, they were required to fight for it. The manner that they needed take action was according to nature. At the same time it was with the knowledge that the Aron HaKodesh would go before them, Hashem would be with them and show them miracles throughout. This conquest contrasts Yetzias Mitzrayim and Krias Yam Suf, where Hashem made miracles and took Bnei Yisroel out Himself, without natural involvement.

The question was only how to proceed with the war, not to analyze whether the war could be won. When given their task by Moshe Rabbenu, all ten spies had the same question. What is the purpose in going to see Eretz Yisroel? If the conquest is going to be in the same miraculous manner as they have lived with until now, they don't have to scout out anything. In the desert, until they crossed the Jordan river, Bnei Yisroel lived with a pattern of open miracles. Once they entered Eretz Yisroel everything would revert to a natural pattern. It would be a natural war. Therefore, they concluded that their mission was to serve as spies, and that they must analyze and decide whether they could win a natural war.

Their critical mistake was not in giving a report, it was their mistaken analysis that they could not conquer Eretz Yisroel. They could have simply reported that they saw immense fruit and impressive giants, and then turn to Moshe Rabbenu and ask him how they were to proceed. Instead they made themselves into spies and concluded that Bnei Yisroel  did not have the power to conquer the land. With this, they overstepped their assignment.

Although while in the midbar, Bnei Yisroel had become accustomed to daily miracles, in Eretz Yisroel they needed to return to a natural way of life. To change Eretz Canaan in a spiritual realm and make it a holy land was impossible in the spies opinion. It was a land that will “eat up all the inhabitants”. The materialistic environment was so strong it would consume their spiritual advances. Therefore, the best thing to do was for Bnei Yisroel to stay in the desert where all their physical needs were met supernaturally. That way, they concluded, they could connect with Hashem without distractions of the materialistic world.  In the desert they had everything they needed spiritually and physically and there was no need to fight any wars. What Bnei Yisroel forgot, is that the reason they left Mitzrayim was not to remain in the desert, rather it was to conquer Eretz Yisroel and make it a holy land for Hashem. Hashem would surely will not let them fail in the physical realm or in the spiritual realm.

This is the answer that Calev gave to Bnei Yisroel. He said that even if Moshe Rabbenu tells us the make a ladder to go up to heaven we will succeed. What did he mean? Everyone understands it is physically impossible for a latter to reach heaven, because a ladder goes has limited height. What this metaphor teaches us is that we have act naturally to conquer Eretz Yisroel, but we can rely on the strength of Moshe Rabbenu that will enable us to ‘reach the heavens’. With the physical war we will have Hashem with us and be able to overcome our enemies and go beyond nature.

It is true that we have to lower ourselves spiritually to enter Eretz Yisroel. Nevertheless it is the purpose of our existence to enter the land and create this connection with Hashem. This is the true spiritual advance – to fulfill what Hashem wants us to do – not what we as individuals feel what is best for ourselves in our service to Hashem.

Based on Sichos of the Rebbe

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