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Tactics of the Yetzer Ho-raSend out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan… So Moshe sent them from the desert of Paran by the word of the Lord. All of them were men of distinction; they were the heads of the children of Israel. (Bemidbar 13:2-3).
Rashi: All of them were men of distinction: Whenever [the word] àÄðÈùÑÄéí [is used] in Scripture, it denotes importance. At that time, they were virtuous. - [Mid. Tanchuma 4]
They spread an [evil] report about the land which they had scouted, telling the children of Israel, "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" (Bemidbar 13:32).
Rashi: 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…
(Shmiras Haloshon by the Chofetz Chaim, v. II, Chap 19)
This Parsha is so utterly incomprehensible. The Meraglim were "men of distinction." How is it possible that they stumbled over such a severe transgression? And how were they able to mislead the entire nation? Even the Sanhedrin were swayed by their arguments (see Rashi on 14:1).
Even more unbelievable is the possuk, "But the men who went up with him said, "We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we" (13:31). The Hebrew reads ëÌÄé çÈæÈ÷ äåÌà îÄîÌÆðÌåÌ. The word mimenu translates simply as "than we." But it also can be translated as, "than Him." Chazal picked up on this double nuance and said, "For they are stronger than we: Heb. îÄîÌÆðÌåÌ, [which may also be interpreted as, they are stronger than he.] They said this in reference to the most High, as it were, [as if to say that the people are stronger than He - [Rashi quoting Sotah 35a].
How could such great individuals, leaders of their tribe, who had witnessed all the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim, have made such a statement!?
The Chofetz Chaim explains that Meraglim fell into a mistake which is a common form of yetzer ho-ra. First let's study the Parsha.
Moshe Rabbeinu commanded the spies to "see what [kind of] land it is, and the people who inhabit it; are they strong or weak? Are there few or many? (13:18)." Rashi explains that he was asking them to observe the quality of the land. "Some countries rear strong people, and some countries rear weak [people]; some produce large populations and some small populations." "And what of the land they inhabit? Is it good or bad? …and take from the fruit of the land." He was telling them, "When you see the huge size of the fruit you'll understand the magnificent quality of land that grows such fruit. And when you see that the inhabitants are strong and tall and many, that is a sign that the air is good" and produces a multitude of extraordinary people.
All this is would be true regarding someone who believes in what Hashem said. He had assured them to give them a good land. Hashem doesn't lie.
However, one whose emuna is faulty and questions even the Almighty, will conjure doubts and start thinking, "Who can conquer such giants like these. And there are so many of them! We will need to be perfectly holy tzaddikim in order to merit getting into that land. That's not us." The taller the people they saw, the more they doubted their ability. All the good things they saw were perceived as terrible drawbacks, and their hearts fell within them.
We have to realize, continues the Chofetz Chaim, that the yetzer is constantly his changing tactics. He sits at the door of your heart deciding which tactic to use. Sometimes he injects haughtiness in one's heart. The person starts thinking that he's a true G-d fearing individual. He is one of Hashem's dear friends. But when the yetzer discerns that this person is beginning to increase his religious intensity, he turns around and injects dejection into his heart. The person starts thinking that he is not worthy of the mitzvah before him. This is for greater people, not little people like himself. Then memories of all the improper things he's ever done in his life start popping into his head. Even though he's already fully regretted his prior actions, the yetzer makes him forget all his teshuvah. He only permits him to remember what will help the yetzer pull him down. In the end he totally loses his desire for the mitzvah he had been planning to perform.
This is what happened by the meraglim. When they came to spy out the land, the yetzer came to them and said, "Look at all these people, and they are so strong; we'll need a tremendous amount of zechu'os to conquer them. This isn't for little people like ourselves. It wasn't so long ago that we sinned with the Golden Calf; and then we went overboard desiring meat. This isn't for us. (All this in spite of the fact that they had already done teshuva: when Moshe came down from Har Sinai after davening for them, they all waited for him the entire night at the bottom of the mountain. When he arrived they all went out to greet him crying, and Moshe announced that Hakadosh Baruch Hu had forgiven them and the day was set as a permanent day of forgiveness, Yom Kippur - as is related in Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer.)
But Klal Yisroel became disheartened from the report of the meraglim. You're right. We're going to enter a land flowing with milk and honey. It grows marvelous fruit. But it is too much for us. The people dwelling there are ferocious; they are giants; Amalek is there too. We'll need an impossible amount of merit to conquer such a land. We'll need Moshe Rabbeinu; but who says he's going to be with us. Didn't Eldad and Meidad prophecy that Moshe wasn't going to enter Eretz Yisroel? The 7 nations of Kena'an live there. We won't be able to even approach the land, much less conquer it. This isn't for puny little creatures like us.
Then Calev hushed the people. "And is this all that the son of Amram has done for us? He split the sea, he brought down the mann, etc." If Hakadosh Baruch Hu had wanted to punish us He wouldn't have performed all these miracles. When we went into the Yam Suf we weren't perfect; we were still idol worshippers. Even though we just complained and complained and didn't trust Him at all, He still gave us the mann. In spite of everything, Hashem protected us and performed miracles for us and fed us. So He'll do the same for us when we enter Eretz Yisroel and we'll be successful and conquer the land.
But the meraglim were not to be won over. "We can't go up there against such a nation; they're too strong for us. They used the word îîðå implying that even Hakadosh Baruch Hu can't get those people out of there. They reasoned that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will only force a nation out of Eretz Yisroel when He finds another better nation. Then the entering nation will utterly obliterate the inhabitants and allow them to take over. But us? We are terrible sinners. We can't even think about confronting such awesome nations as these. Hakadosh Baruch Hu's promise to give us the land was only if we were tzaddikim and deserved it
The meraglim saw that the people were sitting on the fence undecided. Many had been swayed by Calev's brilliant speech. Now the meraglim got desperate and said loshon ho-ra about Eretz Yisroel. "When we went to spy out the land we observed very carefully what was going on there. The air is terrible, it kills. Everywhere we went we saw funerals. Only the giants were able to survive that putrid air." (With this they implied that, yes, the land is very holy. But so holy that strict Divine Justice rules there. You have to be perfect to survive. You can't compare violating the will of the king in the countryside, to violating his will right in the king's palace! Only the greatest tzaddikim can survive there. We're not great enough, it's not for us.)
"We saw giants there and we were like grasshoppers in their eyes. When you get there you're going to melt from fear. Hashem only protects those who trust Him, He won't protect you."
Then the congregation - òãä - wept. Rashi explains that the world òãä refers to the Sanhedrin. Rashi means that the greater the person, the more he recognizes his deficiencies and how far he is from perfection. He looks down at himself and considers himself nothing. When the meraglim suggested that the generation wasn't worthy of a miracle to overpower such giants, the Sanhedrin accepted it.
Yehoshua and Calev answered the meraglim. "First of all you spoke loshon ho-ra and said the air in Eretz Yisroel is dangerous. We also were there and we carefully inspected it and we saw just the opposite; the land is very, very good. "As for your second complaint that Hakadosh Baruch Hu only promised to bring tzaddikim into the land; that is a mistake from the very beginning. Hakadosh Baruch isn't so exacting on people to say that He will only save him if he is perfect. Hashem only makes one condition on the person: don't rebel against Me! If you rebel against Me, chas v'shalom, then I won't save you. As long as you don't rebel against Hakadosh Baruch Hu to intentionally violate His mitzvos, you can expect the best. Don't be afraid of the big strong giants; don't be afraid of the multitudes of the nations there; they will be our food. If a person encounters a loaf of bread the size of a tall building should he be afraid of it? It isn't alive that it fights back. Just the opposite; it's sitting there ready to be eaten. Just sit back and enjoy it! These people have no spirit left in them. Hashem has put fear into their hearts; they are panic stricken. They're just waiting for you to come and eat them alive. And as for the giants; they're even more petrified than the rest of the people. They're hiding in the mountains and in the fortified cities."
With this the Chofect Chaim concludes; so too is it with us. If we come and ask a Yid, do you believe that someone who follows the Torah will merit a great reward? He most definitely will answer, Certainly, I totally believe that. Didn't Chazal tell us that one hour of enjoyment in the Next World is greater than all the pleasure of This World? Then we ask him, if so, why are you lax about learning Torah? And because of this you are lax about all your mitzvos. So he'll answer, you're right. A person who learns Torah and performs the mitzvos properly will inherit a pleasure greater than this whole Olam Hazeh. But who can do that? That's for special individuals. One has to put all his energy into that. He has to give up his entire Olam Hazeh and be fully dedicated to the spiritual. He's got to sit in a Beis Medrash the whole day, and most of the night; he has to think only about mussar and deveikus. He has to be a totally holy man. That is the person who will merit Olam Haba, not simple people like me!
This is a terrible mistake. The Torah didn't obligate a simple working man to learn the whole day and not involve himself with business at all. He should work and earn a living; but he should set aside set times for learning. And when he works, he should be honest and not crooked. When he gets upstairs they will ask him, "did you deal in business honestly? Did you set aside time to study?" If you look at all the rest of the mitzvos you'll see the same thing. The Torah didn't come down severely on the person. All that is required is not to rebel against the Ribono Shel Olam. Don't overtly disobey the mitzvos. As long as you're not a rebel, you will most certainly merit upstairs in the best way possible.
When the yetzer sees that he can't seduce the person, he starts a new strategy. True, Hakadosh Baruch Hu only wants the person to set aside time to learn Torah. But you should know, that when he comes to give a reckoning upstairs before the Holy Throne, they are extremely exacting regarding his Torah learning and performance of the mitzvos. Was his learning absolutely lishma? Did he take too many breaks and idly chat away in the middle of his seder? Hashem is a G-d of Truth. Who can win that court case unless they are absolute tzaddikim?
With all these arguments the Yetzer ho-ra tries to wear the person down, make him fell small and lowly, all in order that he slackens off in his Yiddishkeit. Yes, the arguments are valid. But the yetzer makes the person forget that Hakadosh Baruch Hu loves chessed and wants His creations to merit. That's why He created teshuvah even before the creation of the world. As long as a person sincerely regrets doing wrong and accepts upon himself to try to be better, he should know that Hakadosh Baruch Hu loves him and will bestow upon him only good.
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).
If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him:
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim
Shema Yisrael Torah Network