June 15-16, í01
This Week's Parsha Views Is Being Sponsored in Memory of
Nechama bas Mordechai ob"m (my Paternal Grandmother).
Sometimes, people change.
Why is that?
Sometimes we find very special people embarking on important projects with the noblest intentions, sacrificing their own comfort and security-then somehow something veers off course. Nobility descends into degradation. High hopes are smashed by lowly reality, shot down to earth.
This is the story of the spies (meraglim in Hebrew): the leaders of the twelve tribes who were hand-picked by Moshe to snoop out the land of Israel in order to plan for the invasion of the country that would be the eternal homeland of the Jewish People.
This was a dangerous mission. Foreign territory, defended by powerful armies, would have to be secretly penetrated and explored. They could be discovered at any time. Doom would constantly be breathing down their necks. The spies were risking their lives for the Jewish People.
But there was a different danger present as well. A greater danger. The masses of the Jewish People had decided that it was necessary to spy out the land before their invasion. That's how armies prepare for battle. But the Jewish People comprised no ordinary army. They were the chosen nation of G-d, elevated to life on a miraculous plane.
Yet the people petitioned Moshe to send spies ahead first (see Deuteronomy 1:22). We didn't want to live on such a lofty spiritual level, trusting G-d to take care of everything. (The idea of being so close to G-d all the time scares us.) Our ancestors tried to pull away from G-d by preparing for war in a more down to earth way. They wanted to settle down in Israel and live as normal people. (Two cars in every garage, a TV in every room.) They didn't want too many miracles occurring all the time, reminding them that there's a G-d watching what's going on down here.
Moshe recognized that the people's intentions in requesting the spies were not pure, but he did not feel that he could oppose them. So Moshe decided to try a different tactic. He choose for his spies twelve of the most righteous leaders of the Jewish People, convinced that they would bring back a good report about Israel and the conquest would take place on schedule.
The Torah tells us that Moshe's chosen spies were "all men of note, the leaders of the Children of Israel" (Numbers 13:3).
Rashi comments that the designation, "men of note" ("anashim" in Hebrew) implies that they were all 100% kosher at the time they were chosen.
There's just one problem with Rashi's commentary here. He seems to contradict himself only a few verses later. Rashi interprets an extra word in a verse describing the return of the spies from their reconnaissance mission to suggest that "just as the spies returned with evil intent, so too they set out with evil intent" (commentary to Numbers 13:26). How can Rashi write that the spies were all kosher at the time they were chosen, and yet also write that they set out on their mission with evil intent? They set out on their mission right after they were chosen!
Truth is, we don't have to say that there's a contradiction here. It's possible that the spies were 100% kosher when Moshe chose them, and then somehow they transformed into devious dissidents after their appointment. It's possible. But it doesn't seem too likely.
Or does it?
Is there really something that could cause people to change so fast?
There is. And that's what changed the spies. It's called ga'avah in Hebrew. In English we call it ego.
When the spies were chosen by Moshe for their lofty mission, their nationally recognized importance and prominence went to their heads. As their egos swelled, their grasp of their precise mission clouded. No longer did they see their assignment as one of mere reconnaissance. In their inflated minds, they elevated their authority to judging whether it was advisable for the Jewish People to enter the land at all. Of the twelve spies, only Joshua and Caleb were able to stand up to this test-the test of leadership, the test of the being honored and recognized.
The tragic incident of the spies teaches us how carefully we have to guard our very human nature. When we are honored by the community with positions of leadership and trust, we should be humbled by our responsibility and do our best to carry it out faithfully, praying that in the merit of the community we should be successful in contributing our talents, which G-d endowed in us.
(This Parsha Views is based on the teachings of Rav Yaakov Kunievsky ob"m, found in Birchas
Insights Into Exodus
Insights Into Leviticus
Insights into Numbers
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