Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
ROOM FOR ERRORAdapted from "Ha'aros" by Moreinu v'Rabbeinu HaGaon HaTzaddik Rav Zeidel Epstein, zt"l.
"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": Do whatever you understand. I am not commanding you. But if you wish, you may send. Since the Bnei Yisroel 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 went to ask the Shechinah. He [G-d] said, "I told them that the land 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 very 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 Yehoshua. And these were the men who said, "We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we (îîðå)" (13:31). Chazal interpret the word îîðå to imply "than Him": the people of the land are stronger than G-d. Even the Lord Almighty can't get them out of there. These meraglim (spies), the greatest of their generation, said things that are unimaginable that a Jew could express.
Moreover, we are talking about the generation that left Mitrzrayim who had seen all the miracles of the 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea, the giving of the Torah, etc. It is incomprehensible that they should 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? It sounds a bit unfair. Reprimand them. But why cause them to make mistakes?
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 þéÈ-äÌ: 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). 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 fallen prey to the same mistake as the spies and suffered the same punishment.
Room to Err - A Principle of Creation
This all indicates that these words, "room for mistake, room to err," are hinting at a very deep principle underlying the whole fabric of Creation. The Universe was created to announce the existence of the Ribono Shel Olam. If we look around us, we cannot help but recognize that there is a Creator. The Chovos Halevovos writes that Hakadosh Baruch Hu formed everything in such a spectacular manner, with such wisdom, 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.
However, 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 blind chance. And he is the master cover-up artist. We are totally deceived 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.
Nisyonos - Opportunity for Greatness
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 without losing our faith? And so the entire Creation is full of nisyonos, trials 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 connect to the Divine, become close to the Borei Olam. A nisayon is a way of elevating oneself to achieve a close connection 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, in an unending stream! 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 peek behind the curtain and 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. Our 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 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, and unhappy with his lot. And he sees exactly the same things as the other person. The first person sees only the chessed of Hashem, while the other sees only problems.
åÀãÆøÆêÀ øÀùÑÈòÄéí éÀòÇåÌÅú "… the way of the wicked He makes crooked" (Tehillim 146:8). Simply read it means that Hashem makes the ways of the wicked crooked; Hashem will arrange things to mislead him. However, the deeper meaning is that the Rosha looks at the ways of Hashem and he himself makes them crooked. He sees everything krum, distorted.
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. But Chazal tell us, 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.
But it all depends upon the person, and this is the pshat in "room to make a mistake." Hakadosh Baruch Hu doesn't force us to make a mistake. He is pure loving-kindness. Rather He gives us room to make a mistake. He takes away His help and lets us fight our battles alone. The Ribono Shel Olam wants to help everyone. He is the source of love and mercy. But we have to want.
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 most corrupt and 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 circumvent 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 connoting G d in this possuk is not Elokim indicating Divine wrath; rather it 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" - [Midrash Tanchuma, Balak 8, Bamidbar Rabbah 20:13]. What! This wicked Bilaam, the king of all the reshoim, and 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, then Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, OK. I'll take away My help. You fight the yetzer hora alone. And now, without Divine Help, a person 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.
A Krumeh Kook
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 fertile 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 country.
Hashem gave them "room to make a mistake." He took away His Divine help and left them to fight the yetzer hora on their own. The meraglim saw, and Calev and Yehoshua saw. The spies saw with a crooked look, "a krumeh kook." Yehoshua and Calev, however, were able to peer behind the curtain and discern the chessed in Hashem's wonderful hashgacha. They didn't fall into "room to make mistakes."
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network