Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Shelach

Look Beyond the Black Cloud

(Adapted from Yesodei Da'as, by Rav Moshe Rozenstein, Mashgiach of the Lomza Yeshiva in prewar Europe)

The incident of the meraglim is one of the greatest tragedies that occurred to our Forefathers. Their hearts melted when they saw the giants of Eretz Canaan. They returned to the camp and frightened the entire congregation of Klal Yisroel into a tremendous fear of these giants, of Amalek, and of the huge fortified cities. Everyone cried that night and wanted to stone Moshe and Yehoshua and pick up and turn around and go back to Mitzrayim.

This is one of the most amazing episodes in the Torah. It seems impossible for us to understand what was going through their minds. This was the nation that had personally witnessed the greatest miracles and wonders of history. They had seen the entire Egyptian empire laid waste with the Ten Plagues. All of nature had waged war on their behalf. They had passed through the splitting of the sea as the mightiest army of the world was drowned in its waters. All the nations around who had merely heard of the miracles were petrified and frozen in fear. At their head were the greatest tzaddikim and prophets in history: Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. The Clouds of Glory surrounded them and protected them from enemies and from the scourges of nature. They were eating Heavenly bread, drinking miraculous water from Miriam's well. And the climax occurred at Har Sinai when they witnessed the Heavenly fire as they stood there face to face with Creator of the Universe as He spoke to the entire nation.

And now they were afraid of some flesh and blood giants? So what if they were big? It's only meat and bones. Any little thing could topple them. Their fear was sheer idiocy! "They are stronger than us." And Chazal delved into their words that they meant to say, "They are stronger than He (Hashem)." Even Hashem won't be able to get them out of that land. This is so unbelievable. Even a little child wouldn't jump to such a conclusion, after what they had just experienced.

Great Things Require Great Nisayonos

The Torah is teaching us a tremendous lesson. We have to know the power of the Yetzer Hora. It can turn the smartest people into the greatest fools and make them all run wild. Why? Because the greatest event was about to happen. Klal Yisroel was about to enter Eretz Yisroel. This was to be the climax of the Giving of the Torah when the nation of Yisroel would take the Torah into Eretz Yisroel. If they would have entered Eretz Yisroel now, together with Moshe Rabbeinu, Aharon, and Miriam, that would have been it! They would build the Beis Hamikdash, destroyed Amalek, and the era of the Moshiach would have begun.

This was such an important event, culminating in the final perfection of the world, therefore their yetzer hora had to be just as great. They didn't prepare themselves for this surge of yetzer hora and so they fell into the greatest madness of history. They came to disgust this wonderful land promised to them already from the times of their Patriarchs. It was the Promised Land where Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov had dwelled and which they had yearned for hundreds of years since their exile down to Mitzrayim. And here they are calling it "a land which eats up its inhabitants."

This is the power of the Yetzer Hora. It can take over a person's imagination and turn him into the biggest fool. And this is exactly what happened. After the whole incident was over, Moshe Rabbeinu informed them of the Divine punishment. They were to die in the wilderness and only their offspring would be granted the gift of entering the land. Their yetzer hora immediately left them, they started crying, "What did we do? We have sinned." They tried to turn around and enter Eretz Yisroel by force. But it was too late. They had already foolishly followed their yetzer hora. They had lost the battle. One must know that when important things are about to happen, the Yetzer Hora senses it and flies into action. If the person misreads the cues, he can destroy all the good Hashem is trying to bestow upon him. One of the most powerful tools in tackling a nisayon is to make yourself aware that you are being tested. If you lift yourself up above the turmoil of the situation and realize that Heaven has sent a messenger (the yetzer hora) to test you, then it is much easier to disengage your emotions and see the situation for what is really is. Remember, at times of greatness, Heaven tests great men.

What Looks Good and What Looks Bad

The episode of the meraglim teaches us another important lesson: You can't be smarter than Hashem. Each of us constantly has many things happening to him, good and bad. It's impossible with our physical eyes to truly discern reality. Some things appear to us good, and they turn out to be catastrophes. While other things appear like terrible crises, when in reality they are the best things that ever happened. It just takes some time to see the resulting benefits.

There is no one in the world who can truly size up each incident. Therefore it is not proper for a person to try to be too smart and wage constant battles fighting every seeming adversity. He can try to gently resist apparent hardships in an attempt to turn them around. However, one shouldn't try too hard to go into battle mode to wage war with people who apparently have malicious intentions against him. This only generates animosity and machlokes and creates enemies. Quite often people will do things against him which get him really angered up. In the end, however, he sees that everything worked out in a marvelous fashion for his good. Everything that happens is Heaven sent. There are things which look very bad causing us to exert tremendous energies to prevent them. And in the end, they often turn out to be the best thing that ever happened. He may, in fact, be foolishly trying to stop a marvelous hashgacha pratis that is being sent his way. With his own bare hands, he upsets the Heavenly plan to shower him with untold gifts and causes himself unwarranted suffering.

When in doubt, the best path is to trust in the Creator and rely on Hashem's limitless bounty and not rush to forcefully oppose everything that appears to be going wrong. He should look deeply into everything that is happening to him. Perhaps he is making a mistake. If he has any doubt, he should practice patience to wait it out and leave matters up to the Heavenly hashgacha. He can exert gentle pressure and mild effort against apparent injurious situations. But he shouldn't get too wrapped up in it. (However, if it is very clear that he will suffer damage from what is happening, then of course he shouldn't be a fool and sit back and do nothing.)

If a person in your household suffers a setback or an illness, it isn't proper to panic and lose your composure as if the greatest tragedy in history has just occurred. One must calmly and dispassionately assess the proper course to take. But don't get too worked up about it. Hashem Yisborach is the source of all good and certainly He means only the benefit of his Creations. There must be some hidden benefit in the apparent tragedy.

This is the story of the meraglim. The best things were happening to them. And they, with their own bare hands, turned everything around into a tragedy for themselves, and for all of Klal Yisroel for generations. Wherever they went they saw the inhabitants of Eretz Canaan occupied with mass funerals. The meraglim, knowing Hashem's great love for Klal Yisroel, should have seen the Divine hand getting the Canaanim preoccupied so they wouldn't realize there were spies amongst them. Instead, because of a slight corruption in their minds, they interpreted everything as bad. "It's a land which eats up its inhabitants." "We were like grasshoppers in their eyes." How did they know how they looked in "their" eyes? They probably weren't even paying any attention to them. It was the greatest blessing so that they shouldn't be caught as spies. They turned everything around for the worst. They interpreted everything negatively and turned the bracha into a curse. They frightened the entire Klal Yisroel into open rebellion against Hashem and caused a weeping for generations.

If they would have contemplated that the ways of Hashem are straight and good, they would not have tried to thwart His plans.

The Torah informs us of the cause why the Generation of the Wilderness lost their right to enter Eretz Yisroel. They didn't think thoroughly and profoundly into what was occurring to them.

We have to know that the same thing happens to all of us. This can be the cause of our greatest downfall. We don't know Hashem's plans. Everything looks so simple and obvious, it's good or it's bad. It's so clear to our eyes. One thinks he knows what to be joyous about or what to fear. He tries his utmost and exerts tremendous efforts in battle against the forces opposing him. And in fact he is causing it all to himself.

A person has to know that he has to delve into Hashem's ways and daven, as Moshe Rabbeinu did, "Let me know Your ways." We have to have a deeper appreciation of Hashem's great love for the Jewish nation and His very exact Divine supervision to bring them the greatest benefit in the end. We have to train ourselves to view everything that happens to us as a Heaven sent chesed. Look beyond the black cloud and see the chesed hiding within. It's a hard task, but it's possible.

Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
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, or change your subscription, please contact:

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel