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PARSHAS SHELACHSend forth men, if you please, and let them spy out the Land of Canaan. (13:2)
"Watch where you are going" is a common adage which exhorts us to keep an eye on the road, the street, etc. It may also be used concerning spiritual matters: to "wake up," look around, take heed; these are important lessons to be learned; listen to your Heavenly messages. There are many wake up calls in life which we, regrettably, ignore. Our parsha begins with one such tragic circumstance.
Shelach lecha anashim, "Send for yourself men". Thus begins one of the most tragic errors in our history. Rashi asks, "Why is the parashas ha'meraglim, episode of the spies, juxtaposed upon the incident concerning Miriam HaNeviah who spoke against her brother Moshe Rabbeinu? She was punished for this infraction; yet, these wicked men saw what had occurred as a result of lashon hora, slanderous speech, and took no heed." They ignored the lesson that Miriam's debacle imparted. Rashi's words, lo lamdu mussar, "They did not learn a lesson," focus on the root of their sin. We all have tendencies to gravitate to areas and endeavors that, at best, are inappropriate. For some reason, the indiscretionary nature of the endeavor does not serve as a deterrent from sin. In fact, for some, the thrill of sin is almost encouraging.
It all boils down to what Horav Moshe Chaim Luzatto, zl, writes in the beginning of his magnum opus, Mesillas Yesharim, "A person must clarify and recognize exactly what is his duty in this world." Horav Yerucham Levovitz, zl, questioned this. Certainly, every Jew knows what is demanded of him. Ask any Jewish child in elementary school, and he or she will immediately tell you that we are here to serve Hashem. What chiddush, novel idea, is the Mesillas Yesharim presenting to us? Rav Yerucham explains that we must focus on the personal message, chovaso, his obligation. Each and every Jew has his own unique tendencies, qualities and potential. He has been endowed by Heaven with a personality and skills that are uniquely his own. Hashem does not demand more from an individual than he is capable of achieving with the Heavenly abilities which he has been granted. Chaim has to become Chaim - not Shmuel!
This is the goal which each one of us is instructed to achieve. Life is meaningful only when one has an ultimate, meaningful goal. Ramchal teaches us that in order for man to begin his personal journey toward spirituality, he must first define and grasp for himself a clear concept of his personal goal, his duty to Hashem. One can have the finest means of transportation, but it is to no avail if he has not yet determined his destination. We all have our personal spiritual destination, our chovaso b'olamo, duty in Hashem's world. Until this has been determined, we cannot begin the journey.
Rav Yeruchem applies the idea of a personal goal based upon one's individual abilities to explain a statement made by Chazal in Meseches Niddah 30b. Chazal teach that, prior to a child's birth, Hashem makes him swear that he will be righteous and not wicked. Maharasha questions the need for what seems to be a superfluous vow, since every Jew was "sworn in" at Har Sinai to accept the Torah and carry out its mitzvos. Why is there a need to swear once again?
The Mashgiach explains that the oath taken at Sinai was a collective one, addressing our general duty as a people to adhere to the Torah and mitzvos. Prior to one's birth, however, the vow becomes personal, individualizing specifically for the person to be born. This vow is tailor-made, commensurate with the abilities of the individual. No two people are given the same duty - because no two people are the same.
In his Sefer Nitzotzos, Horav Yitzchak Hershkowitz, Shlita, quotes a practical analogy which illuminates the concept of personal goals in life. A group of people were waiting in the bus station in Tel Aviv. Different buses were pulling out to various destinations in the Holy Land. A young boy stood with his mother in line for the bus that made the short run from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim. Next to them was another line of people waiting to take the bus from Tel Aviv to Be'er Sheva, situated in the southern tier of Eretz Yisrael. Understandably, this was a much longer trip. As the young boy alighted the bus for Yerushalayim, he questioned his mother concerning the physical condition of their bus in comparison to the bus traveling to Be'er Sheva. His mother explained that since their trip was short, the bus used by the company was an older bus with fewer comforts and modern accouterments. The travelers to Be'er Sheva required a newer bus which provided greater comfort, so that their ride would be more pleasurable.
Life is like that. We are here for a specific purpose: to fulfill our duty to Hashem and earn our way into Olam Habba, the World to Come. We are not here to pick the roses and have a great time. Thus, the "bus" we take for our journey through life does not have to be luxurious. Regrettably, there are some individuals who have yet to define their personal goals in life and integrate it into their individual psyches.
This is where the meraglim went wrong. Life is a journey with a destination. Every lesson which we learn is important for us, so that we are able to reach our destination and achieve our personal goal. For example, when the meraglim learned that a woman who had achieved the spiritual eminence that exemplified Miriam erred by saying just a few words that were not carefully selected, they should have derived a lesson concerning the significance of speech. They should have realized how easy it is to go wrong, deviate slightly from the correct course and not reach one's destination. They forgot their personal duty in this world and, thus, took the wrong bus!
Send forth men, if you please, and let them spy out the Land of Canaan that I gave to Bnei Yisrael. (13:2)
The debacle with the meraglim, spies, haunts us to this very day. The entire episode is laden with questions. We will focus on a simple question: the redundancy of the word Canaan. Once Hashem said, "To the (land) that I give to Bnei Yisrael," we know that this is the Land of Canaan. There is a premium on every word in the Torah; thus, every word that is repeated is excessive. In his Zera Kodesh, Horav Naphtali, zl, m'Ropshitz suggests a homiletic rendering of the pasuk that sheds much light on the pesukim and offers us a new perspective concerning the incident that brought down an entire nation.
The Rebbe explains that the middah, positive character trait, which transcends all others, is that of anavah, humility, and hachnaah, yielding oneself. An indication of this verity is none other than Moshe Rabbeinu, Klal Yisrael's quintessential leader and teacher, whose greatest appellation is his humility. This is also the most praise-worthy quality of Eretz Yisrael. It is a land which imbues its inhabitants with a sense of selflessness and humility. Thus, it is called the Land of Canaan, a derivative of hachnaah. It describes the land and what it infuses in its citizens.
When Moshe sent forth the meraglim, he intimated to them to take heart and apply their minds, so that they would take notice of this exceptional quality. This is derived from the phrase, U're'iissem es ha'aretz mah hu, "And you will see the land what it is." The words, mah hu, is an allusion to humility, as Moshe and Aharon HaKohen commented about themselves v'nachnu mah, "And what are we?" (Shemos 16:7) In addition, Moshe instructed the spies to discern if the nation residing in Canaan is chazak or rafah, strong or weak. This means that although the nation is physically strong, they view themselves as weak. Moshe encouraged the meraglim to develop an appreciation for Eretz Yisrael to take a long, hard look at the country, its inhabitants and their character traits. See how the Holy Land transforms its inhabitants. The strong act like the meek and the mighty attribute their strength to a Higher Power. Ha'me'at hu im rav, is their census little or great. Normally, this would refer to the warrior count, so that the Jewish army would be aware of whom they were up against: Ha'yesh bah eitz im ayin, "Is there a tree or not?" Rashi explains that this refers to a righteous man, in whose merit the country could be spared. The Rophshitzer adds, "Is there a holy man who views himself as ayin, nothing?" In short, Moshe inquired as to the humility quotient of the land his army was about to conquer. They were sent to reconnoiter the land - but it was for a positive purpose. Regrettably, their personal insecurities prevailed and clouded their perspective of the truth.
Humility is a quality trait that is not easily acquired. One must work on himself with sincerity to achieve true humility. The Maggid, zl, m'Zlotchav asks: If humility is a defining character trait to the point that it outweighs all mitzvos, why is it not included among the 613 mitzvos? We should have a mitzvah: You shall be humble! He explains that mitzvos must be carried out lishmah, for the purpose of Heaven. Every commandment in the Torah has this purpose. Anavah, humility, is not something one does for a purpose. He either is humble - or he is not. To act humbly for a reason smacks of a lack of sincerity and, thus, is not true humility. Indeed, humility in which one calls attention to his self-effacing character is nothing more than subtle arrogance.
An individual seeking "guidance" in dealing with "arrogance" issues approached Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, and asked him for his sage advice concerning conquering this negative character trait. Rav Sholom told the man, "Go into the shul and stand by the bimah. Presently, I am occupied. I will be there soon, and we will talk."
A few moments went by, and another Jew with a problem encountered Rav Sholom: "The tax collector is breathing down my back, demanding a huge sum of back taxes. What should I do?" Rav Sholom replied, "Go into the shul, and you will meet a man standing by the bimah. Discuss your problem with him."
The man followed Rav Sholom's instructions, only to be rebuffed by the individual with "arrogance issues." Subsequently, they both came out to Rav Sholom and asked what the purpose of his suggestion was. Rav Sholom asked the first man, "You mean you cannot solve his problem? Return to the shul and wait for me at the bimah."
A short while later, a gentleman whose daughter was soon to be married came to Rav Sholom with a tale of woe. He had no way of covering the dowry. It was beyond his financial ability. What should he do? Rav Sholom told him, "Go into the shul, and you will see a man standing at the Bimah. He will help you."
This man approached the first man who seemed to have "moved" into the shul and asked for his help in marrying off his daughter. The first man replied somewhat incredulously, "I have no idea why Rav Sholom sent you here. I have no money. I could never help you." As before, both men went outside to Rav Sholom. The first man asked, "Why did the Rav send this man to me?"
"What? You have no money? I am sorry. Go back into the shul. I will be there soon."
As the first man returned to shul, another Jew asked Rav Sholom a halachic sheilah, question, concerning the kashrus of a lung. Rav Sholom also instructed this third man to go into the shul and ask the sheilah to the man standing by the bimah. Well, he did, and the answer was once again negative. He had no clue concerning the halachic status of the lung. When he returned to Rav Sholom and "wondered" why the Rav sent a sheilah to him, Rav Sholom countered, "You mean you are unable to discern the halachic status of this lung? I am sorry I bothered you. Go back into the shul, and we will soon talk."
The next man to come over to Rav Sholom was a simple laborer whose wagon had fallen into a ditch, and he needed help extracting his horse and wagon from the mud. The reader can probably guess that Rav Sholom also gave this man the address of the "man standing at the bimah."
This was too much. The first man came out and asked Rav Sholom: "What is the Rav doing to me? I am physically weak. How could I help extract the horse and wagon from the ditch?"
At this point, Rav Sholom turned to the man and said, "I do not understand you. You obviously lack the acumen necessary to help the man who had tax problems. You have no money; otherwise, you would have helped the father with his daughter's dowry. A talmid chacham, Torah scholar, you are not, for you could not determine the halachic status of the lung. Apparently, physical strength is also not one of your qualities, since you turned down the wagon driver. Let me see: no acumen; no money; no scholarship; no strength. Yet, you need my advice on how to deal with arrogance issues? Exactly what is it that you have to be arrogant about?"
Are there trees in it - or not? You shall strengthen yourselves and take from the fruit of the land. (13:20)
Rashi explains that the instructions of Moshe Rabbeinu to the meraglim, spies, to check out whether there were trees was not agricultural in nature. Man is likened to a tree; thus, Moshe was intimating that they determine if there was a righteous person living in the city whose merit could conceivably intercede on behalf of the citizenry. Rashi's statement is famous in its own right. I recently saw a homiletic rendering of this exegesis which has great practical application in contemplating Jewish life.
The Belzer Rebbe, Horav Aharon, zl, was often likened to a Heavenly angel. His virtue and piety coupled with his asceticism elevated him to a realm rarely reached by a human being. When the Rebbe was niftar, passed on, his chassidim were left bereft of their mentor and address for every entreaty. He was the embodiment of tzidkus, righteousness, in this world. They could not imagine life without his guidance, so intense was their grief. Broken-hearted and sullen, they decided to solicit the sage advice of the Pressburger Rav, Horav Akiva Sofer, zl. Perhaps he could offer them solace and hearten them.
The Rav listened to them, and, being that it was the week of Parashas Shelach, he quoted the pasuk, Ha'yeish bah eitz im ayin, "Are there trees in it - or not?" Rashi teaches that the phrase, ha'yeish ba eitz, is a reference to an adam kasher, sincerely righteous man, who will be maigin, protect, the generation. "How does one discern if the individual is righteous?" the Rav asked. "Im ayin - when he is no longer with us. No one lives forever. When the tzaddik passes from his earthly abode - then we view the attitude of his talmidim. If they are v'hischazaktem, strengthen one another, remain close and act with unity and harmony, this is a clear sign that their mentor was a true tzaddik."
Therefore, how are we to reconcile ourselves with some of the petty and not so petty discordant relationships that occur after a great mentor takes leave of the world? The fire of machlokes, dispute and controversy, is not prejudicial. It affects all segments of Jewish life, regardless if one is chassidic, litvish, yeshivish - or none of the above. Does this, chas v'shalom, reflect negatively on the personage of the mentor? Certainly not! The Belzer Rebbe's chassidim were so distraught concerning the loss of their holy Rebbe that they sought guidance whom to follow. Who could replace their esteemed leader? When the students, and even sons, lock their horns in dispute concerning who is to lead, who is to get the title, who receives greater eminence, the controversy is of a different nature. Those who are timid enough to follow are more concerned with the political situation than with grieving over their Rebbe who has just passed on. When a great leader dies who did not designate a successor for reasons unknown, a vacuum is created, a void which is ripe for the Satan to involve himself. It is called a machlokes l'shem Shomayim, controversy for the sake of Heaven. That is the name given to it by the Satan. In truth, it is nothing more than simple machlokes.
And how is the land - is it fertile or is it lean? Are there trees in it or not? You shall strengthen yourselves and take from the fruit of the land. (13:20)
Rashi comments that Moshe Rabbeinu's reference to a tree is actually an allusion to a tzaddik, righteous person. Moshe wanted to determine if the land possessed a righteous individual in whose merit the inhabitants would be spared. Two questions immediately present themselves: First, how were the spies to ascertain the true righteous nature of a person? Piety and virtue are not necessarily attributes that manifest themselves publicly. How often have we met individuals who overtly present themselves as virtuous and righteous, only to discover later that it was all a show, a sham cover-up of an individual whose insidious nature is cloaked in a raiment of piety? Second, what was the purpose of retrieving fruit from the land? If the "tree" is primarily a metaphor and allusion for a person, how will the fruits make a difference?
The Satmar Rebbe, zl, explains that the "fruits" determined the integrity of the adam kasher, righteous man, and his ability to protect the land's inhabitants. How does one determine the spiritual veracity of a tzaddik? Individuals portray themselves as righteous, virtuous, the epitome of piety. Yet, at times, we discover that it was all a ruse. They are actually quite distant from the image they present. Moshe taught the meraglim how to distinguish the real tzaddik from the chameleon: look at his "fruits," his sons and students. If those who follow in his footsteps are truly righteous, sincere in their piety and paragons of moral rectitude, then apparently the apple has not fallen far from the proverbial tree; the Rebbe is a tzaddik.
And My servant Kalev, because he possessed a different spirit, and followed Me fully. (14:24)
Hashem said that Kalev would be rewarded. What about Yehoshua? He was the other spy that stood in opposition to the slanderous reports against the Land. Furthermore, what is the meaning of Kalev's different spirit? How was he different from Yehoshua in this manner? K'motzei Shalal Rav quotes Horav Yehudah Kahana, zl, brother of the Ketzos HaChoshen who suggests an entirely new perspective on this pasuk. He cites the statement made by Chazal in the Talmud Berachos 34b, B'Makom she'baalei teshuvah omdim, ein tzaddik gamur yachol laamod. This essentially means that the baal teshuvah, penitent, ascends to a spiritual perch which eludes even the righteous person. In other words, one who has triumphed over the evil within him has achieved more and will be elevated beyond the status of he who has always been righteous.
Moshe Rabbeinu was Yehoshua's rebbe. He prayed for him, entreating Hashem not to allow Yehoshua to falter and fall in with the meraglim. Thus, from the outset, Yeshoshua had it made. He was a tzaddik. His revered rebbe saw to his spiritual ascendency. Kalev, however, was not as fortunate. He felt pangs from within encouraging him to gravitate to the rest of the group, become part of the assembly. He overcame these feelings, breaking away from the majority of the group until, with a broken heart, he shed tears at the gravesite of the Patriarchs. He entreated the Patriarchs to intercede on his behalf, so that he not succumb to his yetzer hora, evil inclination. He emerged triumphant; he was a true baal teshuvah.
Kalev achieved a spiritual status that even Yehoshua could not reach. Yehoshua was a tzaddik. Kalev was a baal teshuvah. This is the meaning of Kalev's ruach acheres, different spirit. The negativity that was coercing him to leave Moshe and join the other spies, to turn his back on all that was right and true, was the ruach acheres. As Hashem attests, however, va'yimale acharai, he followed Me fully. Kalev's penitential return earned him special reward.
I have always been bothered by this interpretation. Why would someone of Kalev's spiritual caliber gravitate to a group of insecure malcontents who went on to slander Eretz Yisrael, thereby creating a mutinous situation within the ranks of Klal Yisrael? While it is true that Yehoshua was Moshe's talmid muvhak, primary student, Kalev was an individual of exalted spiritual status. He was a tzaddik who was selected by Moshe to be part of this elite group. The others soured. He "gravitated" towards them. Why?
Perhaps the answer lies in his family pathology. Kalev ben Yefuneh was married to Moshe's older sister, Miriam HaNeviah. They had a son who became a Navi. His name was Chur. During the Golden Calf rebellion, Chur stood up to the mutineers and was killed for his act of courage! I wonder if this entire scenario did not play out in Kalev's mind. Maybe there was another way. Perhaps it was safer not to stand up to the wicked. Clearly, there was precedent not to. After all, look at what happened to "my son"! This is how the yetzer hora manipulates a person. I doubt if any of this occurred, but it does give us something to think about, concerning why someone of Kalev's spiritual caliber would have hesitated - if but for a moment.
It shall constitute Tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them. (25:39)
Tzitzis are a vehicle for remembering the precepts of the holy Torah. Tzitzis b'gimatria, in its numerical equivalent, totals 600; the eight strings and five knots add up to 613, which is the number of mitzvos of the Torah. Yet, we do not see many people applying themselves to this number. One can wear Tzitzis - even wearing the fringes outside for all to see- yet still act in blatant disregard of the mitzvos. How are we to understand this anomaly?
The Maggid, zl, m'Dubno offers a parable which elucidates this matter. A poor man was once invited for dinner to the home of a wealthy man. Aside from the luxurious furnishings, the poor man was blown away by his host's chair. It was hand-carved mahogany with imported leather upholstery. What impressed him the most were the bells attached to the chair. Whenever the host needed something, he jingled a different bell and immediately a servant appeared to fulfill his master's wish. The poor man left the table that night satiated, but obsessed with a desire to one day also have such a marvelous chair.
The poor man scrounged, saved every penny that he could, until one day, he finally had the necessary money. He went to a carpenter and commissioned a chair replete with bells, exactly like the one owned by the wealthy man. Finally, the chair was ready for pick up. The poor man went to the carpentry shop and picked up the chair. He invited his circle of friends to watch the miraculous chair. His family sat around their simple table, eyes glued to the chair. His friends came and were eagerly awaiting to see this chair's wonderful properties.
The show was about to begin. The poor man was ready for the entrée. He took the entrée bell and jingled. Lo and behold, nothing happened. The poor man figured that it was a new bell that required "breaking in." Nonetheless, nothing happened. No servants, no food, just bizyanos, humiliation. The next day, the poor man returned the chair to the carpenter with his list of complaints. How dare he take his hard-earned money and cheat him!
The carpenter looked at the poor man incredulously, "Fool that you are. Do you think that it is the bells that produce the servants, the food and everything else? The bell is there only as a vehicle for summoning the correct person or to inform the kitchen that the master is ready for the next course."
A similar idea applies to Tzitzis. Yes, gazing on the Tzitzis is a segulah, special remedy, for remembering mitzvos. This segulah, however, functions only when the person studies Torah and is knowledgeable of the mitzvos. If a person knows nothing, because he learns nothing, he will have nothing to remember. It is like the poor man with the bells. He can summon all he wants. If there is no one on the other end listening for the summons, it is of no value.
Ha'mechadesh b'tuvo b'chol yom tamid maasei Bereishis. In His goodness He renews daily, perpetually, the work of Creation.
Horav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, zl, explains the concept of maasei Bereishis, the work of Creation, as referring to the creation of hester, concealment, with the ability to repair the circumstance by revealing the light from within the darkness. At the point of Creation, the world as we know it was one large, dark void, tohu va'vohu, "emptiness and nothingness." From this void, Hashem created yeish mei'ain, something from nothing. It was dark nothingness, and it suddenly became a universe, a vibrant, living, breathing world. Every day -- in fact, every moment-- there is created the opportunity for each and every one of us to reveal that hidden light and illuminate the world. This is the meaning of chidush, renewing, maasei Bereishis, representing an awesome kindness which Hashem grants us. Every single day, we wake up with renewed powers and special siyata diShmaya, Divine assistance, to transform these latent powers into creative ability. We require one thing: desire, willingness, motivation. We have the ability; we are granted the opportunity. For what are we waiting?
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