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SHELACHAdapted from "Ha'aros" by Moreinu v'Rabbeinu HaGaon HaTzaddik Rav Zeidel Epstein, zt"l.
Room for Error
"Send out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel" (Bemidbar 13:2)
"Send for yourself": According to your own understanding. I am not commanding you, but if you wish, you may send. Since the Israelites had come [to Moshe] and said, "Let us send men ahead of us," as it says, "All of you approached me…" (Devorim 1:22), Moshe took counsel with the Shechinah. He [G-d] said, "I told them that it is good, as it says, 'I will bring you up from the affliction of Egypt…' (Sh'mos 3:17). By their lives! Now I will give them room to err through the words of the spies, so that they will not inherit it." - [Rashi citing Midrash Tanchuma 5]
This parshah is quite difficult to understand. Whom are we talking about? The spies were the leaders. The Ramban states that they were listed in order of their importance. We find that Yehoshua was only listed 5th. That means that there were four others greater than he. And these were the men who said, "And the men who went up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we (îîðå) (31)" Chazal interpret the word îîðå to also mean "than Him." For the people of the land are stronger than Him. Even the Lord Almighty can't get them out of there. The meraglim (spies) said things that are unimaginable for a Jew to express. Moreover, we are talking about the generation that went out of Mitrzrayim and saw all the miracles of the 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea, the giving of the Torah, etc. It is unfathomable for them to utter such statements. And these were the leaders, the best of the people, greater than Yehoshua Bin Nun! And they're talking like this? What's going on here?
Then Rashi informs us that the Ribono Shel Olam was giving them a chance to make a mistake. Why? Why cause the greatest leaders of the generation to make a mistake?
In the end, we find that Yehoshua and Calev came out of this unscathed. What was their secret? Moshe davened for Yehoshua: "… and Moshe called Hoshea bin Nun, Yehoshua" (16) (Rashi: He prayed on his behalf, "May G-d save you from the counsel of the spies." [The name éÀäåÉùÑËòÇ is a compounded form of éåÉùÑÄéò-þéÈäÌ - May G-d save you.]- [Sotah 34b]). And Calev went to Chevron to daven in Me'oras Hamachpela by the graves of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov (Rashi possuk 22 citing Sotah 34b). And what would have happened if Moshe had not davened for Yehoshua, and Calev had not davened in Chevron? It seems that they would have made the same mistake as the spies and suffered the same punishment.
It appears that these words, "room for mistake, room to err," are hinting at a very deep principle underlying the whole fabric of Creation. The purpose of the entire Creation is to announce the existence of the Ribono Shel Olam. If we look at the Creation, one cannot help but recognize that there is a Creator. The Chovos Halevovos writes that Hakadosh Baruch Hu formed everything in such a spectacular manner that we can actually point at it and say "I see the Creator!" Everywhere you turn you see the chessed and love of Hashem in making such a wonderful and beautiful world.
But in conjunction with this He created a force, or power, the Yetzer Hora, whose job is to cover this all up. He doesn't want us to see G-d in nature. Everything is chance. And he is the master cover-up artist. We are totally blinded by him.
However, there's another rule, åä' ìà éòæáðå áéãå Hashem won't let you fall into his hand (Succah 52b, Kiddushin 30b). Man has the ability to pull apart the curtain, to look beyond the smoke screen and see the Hand of G-d in everything.
The Mesillas Yesharim writes, "The entire creation is full of tests (nisyonos) for a person." We are used to understanding the word nisyayon as meaning a test. Hakadosh Baruch gives us tests to see how we will fare, if we will stand up to the challenge. Will we accept the difficulties lovingly and not lose our faith, or not. And so the entire Creation is full of nisyonos, tests, for the person. This is definitely true, but there is another approach to understanding the Mesillas Yesharim.
The Ramban explains that the word nisayon stems from the root ðñ, nes - a flag or a banner: "'And Hashem tested Avraham,' as it says (Tehillim 60:6), 'You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.' Nisayon after nisayon, growth after growth, in order to display them in the world…" (Bereishis Rabba 55:1). (See also the Ramban on Bereishis 22:1.)
Hashem wants to draw the person closer to Him, to grant him the ability to attach himself to the Divine, close to the Borei Olam. A nisayon is a way of becoming elevated to achieve total devotion to the Ribono Shel Olam. According to this, we translate the possuk: "Hashem lifted up Avraham (using the Hebrew term nisa, ðñä, indicating raising a banner on high)." The Ramban explains that a nisayon is not to test the person to see if he will withstand the tests. Hashem knows already. He gives nisyonos only to those whom He knows can withstand the nisayon. He does not give nisyonos to someone who cannot handle them. So what is the purpose of this nisayon? To help him, to strengthen him so that he can become raised up and great.
This new concept of the Ramban fits in very well with the Mesillas Yesharim. A person's life is a constant stream of nisyonos. If a nisayon is a test, a test can be given once a year, once a month; but not constantly, without a break! That is not a trial! That's a condition, a form of existence. It appears more compatible to the concept of the Ramban: a nisayon's purpose is to lift the person up and make him greater so that the person can become closer and more attached to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
A person is given nisyonos to see if he will see the chessed in everything that happens to him. Whether he is given health or not, the Borei Olam is always there supporting him, taking care of him. One's job is to see G-d's hand in every aspect of life. A nisyoyon is not given to see if one will fall or not (even though that's also true). Rather the purpose of nisyonos is to see through the fog, to peek behind the curtain and thus lift up one's spiritual stature to see Hashem everywhere and all the time - deveikus. That's the Ramban's definition of nisyonos.
But a person has the free will not to see. He can look at everything with a critical eye. This is going wrong, I don't have what I need, all I see are problems. Everything should have been different, and everything is getting messed up. He sits there bitter, complaining, unhappy with his lot. And he sees exactly the same things as the other person. But the first person sees only chesed from Hashem, and the other sees only problems.
åÀãÆøÆêÀ øÀùÑÈòÄéí éÀòÇåÌÅú "…but the way of the wicked he makes crooked" (Tehillim 146:8). Pshat in this possuk isn't (only) that the ways of Hashem are crooked. (It could also be true, that Hashem will make the ways of a rosha crooked to mislead him.) Rather, it means that the Rosha looks at the ways of Hashem and he himself makes them crooked. He sees everything krum.
This is a big pill to swallow. How is it possible to wage war with a malach? If the yetzer hora is an angel with supernatural powers, we don't stand a chance. This is the meaning of the gemora we quoted above: åä' ìà éòæáðå áéãå Hashem won't let you fall into his hand. In spite of the difficulties put in our way, Hashem is there with his loving-kindness to help us, to support us, to aid us to see the chessed in everything that happens to us.
But it all depends upon the person, and this is the pshat in "room to make a mistake." Hakadosh Baruch Hu doesn't make us make a mistake. He is pure loving-kindness. Rather He gives us room to make a mistake. He takes away the help and lets us fight our battles alone. The Ribono Shel Olam wants to help everyone. He is the source of love and mercy.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu even loves the rosha and wants to help him. In a few weeks we will read the parsha of Bilaam. This rosha wanted to curse the Jewish people. Hashem warned him, Don't go! But he went anyway. Bilaam was a prophet and he knew exactly what he was doing. Hashem had said don't go, and he went. Hashem said, don't curse, and he went to curse them. He was one of the lowliest wicked people who ever lived. He could speak face to face with G-d and at the same time think he could rebel against Him. What did Hashem do? Did He now tell him don't go? No. He told him, Go. But remember, you're going to have to say what I want you to say. Don't think this world is hefker. And he went, and continued looking for ways to get around Hashem's refusal to curse the Jewish people. Three times Hashem tried to stop him from continuing his journey, but Bilaam persisted in his evil schemes. He was determined to annihilate the Jews, to wipe them off the face of the earth.
"G-d's wrath flared because he was going, and an angel of the Lord stationed himself on the road to thwart him (22:22). The word for G-d in this possuk is Hashem, denoting Divine Mercy. Thus, Rashi explains that it was an angel of mercy. If you would ask me, I would say that sure, it was an angel of Divine mercy. Hashem had mercy on Klal Yisroel and wanted to protect them from the evil curse of Bilaam. But Rashi tells us something else: "Hashem wanted to prevent him from sinning, for should he sin, he would perish" - [Mid. Tanchuma Balak 8, Num. Rabbah 20:13]. What! This wicked Bilaam, the king of all the roshoim. Hashem wants to save him? Let him go and dig his own grave. Who cares about him? But no. Hashem cares. He sent an angel of mercy to try to stop him. Maybe he'll come to his senses and go home. This is the lesson. Hashem wants to help EVERYBODY!
This is the help Hakadosh Baruch Hu sends everyone to save him from the yetzer hora. But if a person doesn't listen, so Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, OK. I'll take away My help. You fight the yetzer hora alone. And now, without Divine Help, he is in the greatest danger possible. Because without Hashem's aid, he barely stands a chance. This is pshat in "room for error." Hashem takes away His Divine assistance and leaves the person to himself.
And the spies went. "The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of stature. There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, descended from the giants. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes."
"…consumes its inhabitants": Wherever we passed, we found them burying dead. The Holy One, blessed is He, intended this for good, to keep them occupied with their mourning so they should not notice them [the spies]. - [Sotah 35a]. "…men of stature": Big and tall, those to whom measurements are attributed [because of their unusual size], such as Goliath. (Rashi)
The spies came back and gave their report. The spies saw a terrifying land, with giants and huge cities, impossible to penetrate. And wherever they went were funerals. The land consumes its inhabitants. Even such strong and towering people can't live there, so how can we? "For they are stronger than we (îîðå)." True, they meant that the people are stronger than Klal Yisroel. But Hashem saw that deep in their hearts they really meant that the land is stronger "than Him."
And what was the truth. What did Calev see? He saw the same scenario. He saw a land which grows large beautiful and luscious fruit. The people are great and mighty, because of the wonderful land that it was. Oh, the funerals. Hashem is protecting us. He's keeping them busy with funerals so they have no time to figure out that these little grasshoppers crawling around are spies who are going to kick them out of their land.
Hashem gave them "room to make a mistake." He took away His Divine help and left them fight the yetzer hora on their own. They saw, and Calev and Yehoshua saw. The spies saw with a crooked look, "a krumer kook." Yehoshua and Calev, however, were able to see through the curtain and discern the chessed in Hashem's wonderful hashgacha. They didn't fall into the "room to make mistakes."
© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers) and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop - Lakewood).
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