Former Shaliach in Atlanta
“Send out for yourself men, and they will scout the Land of Canaan… by the word of Hashem; they were all men of distinction, the heads of the Children of Israel were they.” (Bamidbar 13:2-3)
Parshat Shlach opens with the story of the meraglim (the Spies), who set out to survey the Land of Canaan. Yet, upon their return, they slander the Land and demoralize Am Yisrael, and as a result of their sin, Jewish history changes forever. Bnei Yisrael are forced to remain in the wilderness for an additional forty years:
“Until the entire generation who had done evil in the eyes of Hashem had ceased to exist.” (Bamidbar 32:13)
Yet, one wonders how the very same meraglim who are “the heads of the Children of Israel” and are selected “by the word of Hashem” could say such things and cause Am Yisrael to forgo entering Eretz Yisrael?
In “Pri Tzedek,” R’ Tzadok of Lublin provides a fascinating answer to this well-known question:
“And behold meraglim who knew that they were Bnei Yisrael’s leaders, and when they arrived in Eretz Yisrael and they sensed, in their righteousness, that they were unworthy of overcoming the [Canaanites]. And from this, they determined that, kal v’chomer (all the more so), the rest of Yisrael was surely unworthy.”
In other words, throughout their mission, the mera- glim recognize Eretz Yisrael’s inherent greatness as well as the tremendous privilege which they are about to receive. Yet, this very recognition is what leads them to think that the nation is unable to enter Eretz Yisrael at this time! The meraglim are convinced that Bnei Yisrael are undeserving of this extraordinary Land and that there is no way that the nation could possibly achieve the madreigah (spiritual level) of entering Eretz Yisrael!
But, if so, why are the meraglim’s actions considered to be a sin? If Bnei Yisrael are, in fact, unworthy of Eretz Yisrael, there should be no talk of them entering the Land. What then was the meraglim’s sin?
R’ Tzadok continues and explains that emunah (faith) in Hashem must also include faith in Hashem’s ability to lift a person above his or her madreigah. Just as one has emunah that Hashem can help us in the physical world, one must believe that Hashem has the power to change one’s spiritual level.
The meraglim should have believed that Hashem desires His nation; that He wants to bring them into Eretz Yisrael; and that He can do so – even spiritually. When Bnei Yisrael believe in Hashem at Yam Suf, Hashem raises the entire nation to the level of prophets:
“Even a maidservant saw at the sea that which Yechezkel did not see.” (Shir Hashirim Rabah)
As the leaders of Bnei Yisrael, the meraglim should have believed in Hashem’s power and should have encouraged the nation to have absolute emunah in Hashem.
David Ben-Gurion famously said:
“A Jew who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.”
We often have excellent, practical reasons for not doing that which we must do. Sometimes, we can even show that it’s beyond our abilities or our spiritual level to observe all the mitzvot we are com- manded to keep. However, we must remember that this is “atzat hameraglim” (literally, the Spies’ way of thinking). We must initiate and make plans, but ultimately, we must have faith that Hashem will enable us to complete the task. Our mission is to do our best to follow Hashem’s Will with the understanding that He always determines the final results.