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Haftarah: Yehoshua 2:1-24

JUNE 12-13, 2015 26 SIVAN 5775


"Send forth for yourself men." (Bemidbar 13:2)

The spies brought a negative report about the Land of Israel. Such great men - where did they go wrong? One of the well-known explanations is that deep down inside they didn't want to enter the land because it would mean the loss of their prestigious positions as leaders of the Jewish people. So they came up with a seemingly well-meant reason why it wasn't good for the Israelites to enter the land.

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan takes this explanation a little further. Of course the spies didn't tell anyone what was really motivating them and it is likely that they didn't even admit it to themselves, but our Sages say this is what was going on inside. There was a certain degree of self-deception regarding their motives and this is an important lesson for us to take out of this perashah - that we must be on guard not to engage in any form of self-deception.

One of the areas where, unfortunately, self-deception takes place has to do with certain expressions that have crept into our language due to the influence of the self-deceiving society around us. Let's cite a number of examples.

The first is "quality time." This is often used to describe pleasant time spent together with one's child or children, implying that time spent amidst the chaos of getting kids off to school or being awake in the middle of the night with a cranky baby is not quality time. Any time spent with a child who needs the parent is quality time, and it is certainly quality time for the parents, as it trains them to be focused on others, one of the reasons Hashem gives us children to begin with.

Furthermore, there is an underlying justification in this expression for being able to spend less time with one's children. A self-oriented (another fancy term; it replaces "selfish") parent may feel he or she doesn't want to "waste time" on the children's needs, so passing the buck to a babysitter or a night nurse can then be justified with the excuse that it's not quality time anyhow, so why put oneself out for it?

We are not saying that all parents are capable of being with kids and maintaining the patience level necessary all the time. Some mothers are actually better mothers by being out of the house at work for a number of hours each day, but let's call a spade a spade and drop the rationalization and dishonesty contained in this expression.

And then there is "anger management." It runs something like this: "I threw a chair in the house yesterday. My life coach says I have an anger management issue." Now that's pretty impressive. This guy has a clinical problem that is really not his fault. I see. Whatever happened to calling him an angry man who must work on his character (middot)? Twenty minutes a day of the book Orhot Sadikim on anger would go a long way towards helping him - even more than meeting for five years with a counselor or a life coach. Shabbat Shalom; Rabbi Reuven Semah

When the spies came back from touring the land of Israel with a negative report, they said those infamous words, "the nations are stronger than us/than Him. They used the words ubnn tuv ezj which can be interpreted as either "stronger than us" or G-d forbid "stronger than Hashem!" How could anyone say such a thing, let alone great leaders like the ten men chosen to be spies?

The Hafess Hayim says that they were really saying we are not worthy of a miracle, so therefore Hashem will not be able to overcome these nations. Not because of a lack of Hashem's power but because of our limitations, Hashem will not be able to do miracles for us. The lesson from this is that this is also wrong! We should never look at ourselves as so down that Hashem cannot help us. He can always help, He can always save, and we must turn to Him at all times, no matter what level we are on! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And how is the Land in which it dwells, is it good or bad?" (Bemidbar 13:19)

How could Moshe entertain the possibility that Eress Yisrael could be bad in any way?

The Kotzker Rebbe answers that Moshe did not really consider that Eress Yisrael could be bad in any way. However, he knew that the spies may not be capable of perceiving everything they saw in a positive light. Therefore, Moshe wanted them to report to him first and tell him their impression of what they saw, and then he would show them how, in reality, everything that they experienced was actually very good, and not as they initially perceived it. The best example of this was the many funerals that took place; everywhere they went, the spies witnessed the Canaanim burying their dead. To them, this phenomenon painted a very dangerous, undesirable picture of the Land. If they would have first consulted with Moshe, however, then he would have shown them how the numerous deaths were in fact a miraculous act of kindness from Hashem, done in order to ensure the spies' safety.

The greatness of our Torah leaders is their ability to see beyond the field of vision that we are capable of. The following story which took place in 1939 demonstrates this point very well.

In 1939, as Germany invaded Poland, Reb Yitzchak Gvirzman, the Pshevorsker Rebbe, fled with many other Jews to Lemberg, which was under Russian control. Once in Lemberg, the Jewish refugees had to decide whether they should accept the Russian citizenship that they were immediately offered, or reject it. No one knew what to do. Should they accept citizenship in order not to offend their new hosts, or remain in a state of limbo, waiting to see how the war would end? The question was posed to the Pshevorsker Rebbe who advised that citizenship should not be taken up. Although several families ignored his advice, many Jewish immigrants accepted the Rebbe's ruling and hoped for the best.

On the 23rd of Sivan the following year, the KGB stormed into Lemberg and arrested all the Jews who had refused citizenship a year earlier. These Jews were swiftly taken and placed in cattle cars heading to Siberia. There was anger and depression in the air and many people voiced their rage at the Pshevorsker Rebbe whom they held responsible for their fate - if they would have only accepted citizenship, they would still be at home, living normally!

The Pshevorsker Rebbe consoled them and reassured them that the date was the 23rd of Sivan, which was the day that Ahashverosh revoked the letters that Haman had sent out ordering the massacre of the Jews. "Just like the 23rd of Sivan was a day of salvation for the Jews all that time ago," he explained, "so it will be a day of salvation for us too."

The Pshevorsker Rebbe's words proved true for everyone who had been sent to Siberia. Soon after their deportation, the Germans invaded Lemberg and killed almost all of the remaining Jewish population there. Those in Siberia were far out of reach of the German army and were saved from almost certain death. In addition, their refusal to accept Russian citizenship meant that when the war ended, they were free to leave Russia, unlike those surviving Jews who had sworn allegiance to Mother Russia. (Short Vort)


Rabenu Bachya (in his commentary on Torah, Parashat Va'era) explains that whenever Pharaoh was warned by Moshe of impending doom, he entered his palace and soon after forgot the warning. The same was true, he said, of the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar.

The fact that these rulers entered their palaces when facing doom - is not a coincidence. Their arrogance was rooted in their palaces.

Conceit is not an intellectual response - it is an emotional one. A beautiful home with its lavish trimmings triggers conceit in a person. This conceit, emotionally based, is so powerful that Pharaoh ignored the warnings of Moshe and even nine mighty plagues that ravished his kingdom.

Enjoy your home for what it is really worth, but don't let it affect your clear view of your personal success or your real goals in life. These genuine ideals should be raising a family, helping others, and perfecting your inner self. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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