Parashas Shlach 5780 – The Path to Eternal Life

The Parasha starts with the commandment to Moshe to send spies: “Send men to scout the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Bnei Yisrael; send one man per tribe, the Chieftain of each tribe.” The Parasha ends with the Mitzva of Tzizis: “Speak to the Bnei Yisrael and instruct them to affix fringes to the corners of their garments … When you will see them, they will remind you Hashem’s Mitzvos, and you will not allow yourself to be misguided by your eyes and heart.” (Num. 15:39) What happened in between is probably one of the saddest episodes of Jewish history, as through the ages catastrophes occurred on the day they have slandered Eretz Yisrael. The worst decrees and calamities in Jewish history arose on Tisha Be’av, including the destruction of both temples. One would think that committing idolatry is worst, and hence the punishment for the golden calf should have been stricter. Thus, the Torah instructs us that ill speaking is much worse, it takes generations and centuries to pay for it. How did this happen? The Verse states that the Meraglim [Spies] were people of stature and righteous, “Anashim” [Bamidbar 12:2]. Their righteousness is emphasized by the fact they accepted the dangerous mission despite knowing that once the Bnei Yisrael enter the land of Israel they will lose their privilege of being Chieftain. They could have rightfully argued; since we will be removed from our position, there is no reason for us to go. Despite their personal feelings, they accepted the mission and were positive that this prejudice will not affect their mission. So, what went so wrong that such people became wicked to the point they lost their share in the Olam Haba? Moshe Rabbeinu obviously suspected they might not succeed to overcome their personal bias. Hence, the Torah says that Moshe changed the name of his disciple Hoshea, to Yehoshua to connote, “May G-d (K-ah) save you from the counsel of the spies.” The Zohar reveals that the letter “Yud” that was added to the name of Yehoshua came from the name of “Saray” after it was changed to “Sara”. The letter by itself was not sufficient, the merit of our righteous mother was required. What was Moshe fearing exactly, behold they were all righteous men going on Hashem’s mission. No evil should then occur, as stated in the Talmud [Yoma 11a] “Mitzva envoys are not susceptible to any harm”? Similarly, the Verse states “They went up through the south and HE went to Hebron”. Chazal explain that Kalev went by himself to Hevron to pray on the graves of the Patriarchs for his safeguard from the agenda of the spies. He did not pray for his safety from the mission’s dangers but only for his welfare from evildoers. What assured him that the spies will indeed skew the information and misreport it? And why was he so worried to be swayed by them? Why did he not believe that the mere fact of him being a Tzadik was enough to assure him not to be influenced by wicked people? As the Zohar says, the personal agenda and interest of the Meraglim did them in. From the onset, they were doomed to fail. So why did they undertook this mission if such was the danger? Besides, in the Haftara portion, we read that Yehoshua also sent spies but there was no tragic outcome. So why the spies of the Parasha caused such misfortunes to themselves and the entire nation for millennials to come? The Ramban notes that the report of the Meraglim; that the inhabitants of Canaan lived in fortified cities, that they were strong and gigantic individuals, and that the fruits were extraordinarily large – was all true. The Be’er Mayim Chayim explains they only veered from the truth when they stated that the people were very mighty, telegraphing the message that we will not be able to overpower them. “Be quiet. You are incorrect! Said Kalev, We WILL be able to conquer them. Hashem was with us until now, and He will be with us in the future. At that point, their story changed. Rather than it being an objective accurate report, they added subjectivity, “A land that eats its inhabitants” (Bamidbar 13:32), which was an editorial comment. Kalev’s reply destroyed their plan of fearmongering, as the Midrash states, sparkles were coming out of the “Aron Hakodesh” and burnt our enemies. Bnei Yisrael in the wilderness never really had to combat, the Saint Arch, there would then be no difference in the war conquering Eretz Yisrael and whether the enemies are short or tall. Hence, they resorted to bad-mouthing the Land of Israel because their interest swerved their judgment. The spies of Yehoshua did not have any personal agenda, so they were safe from misreporting. This story teaches critical lessons; unbeknownst to the person, any personal interest will sway the truth. To his eyes, it genuinely seems to be the truth, and his entire being is convinced of that. Telling him otherwise will only enrage him and provoke further discords. His entire being is assured it is nothing but the truth, he cannot fathom any other option. His mind is shuttered and can no longer process any diverging option. What is causing such erratic judgment and causing one to mislead so tragically? Being biased shutters any potential objectivity, instead ill feelings fed by subjectivity and the need to be right at all costs overpower the brain undermining any chance of impartiality. These powerful feelings totally entrap the brain and use it instead to rationalize their misdeeds. Occasionally, one is confronted with these situations, his heart is taking control and his eyes are blinded with a layer of silver, turning them into mirrors. No wonder that at that point he can only see himself. The only recourse then is to look at his Tzizis, which will free his mind from its entrapment and attenuate the fire of the feelings. However, there is one evil which is beyond any rescue; “Lashon Hara”, slandering, and the worst are defamation and calumny. The Zohar teaches that the power to speak comes from the Ruach and Neshama, hence all other living creatures cannot speak as they do not have the Ruach and Neshama. So, one is using his entire being to slander and defame a fellow Jew, he soils then his Ruach and Neshama, making it extremely difficult to do Teshuva. We understand how the sin of the Meraglim, which started with a personal bias, was amplified by an urge to be right at all cost, at which point they committed the ultimate sacrilege, slandering the Land of Israel. Gehinom is full of people who were convinced to be one hundred percent correct, but the Olam Haba is populated by one hundred percent of people that always doubted themselves.

By Rabbi Fridmann * rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com * 305.985.3461

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