Thursday, May 30, 2013

Parshas Shelach - The Sin of the Spies

Parshas Shelach is a pretty famous chapter, most well known for the sin of the spies, which resulted in the Jewish People wandering in the desert for the next 40 years.

Let's recap the narrative here. The Jewish People are at the edge of the Land of Israel, about to enter. G-d tells Moshe that he can send spies to go into the Land and see what the situation is. The 12 spies go into the Land, take a look around and come back with a report. 10 came back with a negative report, 2 - Yehoshua (Joshua) and Calev (Caleb) came back with a positive report.

As the 10 spies were relating to the People what they had seen, they said something that I find fascinating. "We cannot ascend to that people for it is too strong for us (Numbers 13:31) ...we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes." (Numbers 13:33)

Remember that these were the people who saw G-d destroy the Egyptians, take them out of Egypt, split the sea, pass them through the sea on dry land, feed them supernaturally with the mannah, and give them the Torah. How is it possible that they don't think that G-d will help them conquer the Land of Israel?

I think that the key is found in the statement: "...we were like grasshoppers in our eyes..." In other words, they had such "small" image of themselves that they assumed they would not be able to do what was asked of them, namely to conquer the Land. It seems that this bad self-image was enough to negate the amazing things that they saw.

I think that there's a lot to be learned from this episode in our history. Self-image is nothing to be sneezed at, and perhaps we have to think about how a self-image is formed. Self-image is created through accomplishment. People feel good about things they have done themselves. Small children beg to do the smallest things "themselves" without help. Adults feel good when they check off things on their 'to do' lists. It's a feeling of accomplishment. These Jews had everything taken care of for them even before they left Egypt.

In Egypt we were slaves, which means our basic needs were taken care of. When G-d took us out of Egypt to be His People, it was G-d who took care of everything. As much as the time in the desert was spent well and necessary learning Torah and becoming a Nation - we never had a chance to create a sense of accomplishment for ourselves.  As a result, when we were asked to spy out the Land - we weren't able to see ourselves as capable of doing what was asked of us - we were "small" in our own eyes.

There are many commentaries on why the spies came back with a bad report about the Land. One of the main ones argues that the reason why they did come back with such a report was because they had been living a purely spiritual existence in the desert and they did not want to give that up when they would enter the Land. They were to become workers of the Land and do things in a natural way versus the supernatural way that things were up until that time - they weren't ready to let that go.

This week's parsha also includes other mitzvot - my favorite, Shabbos and others.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

Make sure to print these dvar Torahs out before Shabbos so you can read them on Shabbos!

Chief Rabbi Sacks Dvar Torah
The Generation Gap -

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