Parshas Shelach: A Year For A Day

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Shelach, we learn of the tragic, infamous sin of the Meraglim, the spies, and the subsequent mourning of the nation, as en masse, they rejected the Land of Israel.  

Before their planned journey into the Holy Land, Moshe sent twelve scouts to spy out the land, one scout per tribe.  They were commanded to walk her length and width, and bring back a report to Moshe and the nation.  Were the cities fortified or open, weak or strong?  What were the people like?  What were the fruits of the land?  Was the land fertile or lean?

And Moshe sent the scouts and they walked the land for forty days, gathering information to bring back to the nation.  Upon their return, they told of a land inhabited by giants; where their arch enemy, Amalek, dwells in the south; where the cities were strong and fortified and the fruits were enormous.  They told of a land and its people that were stronger than G-d, keviyachol!, and that they could surely never conquer or inhabit.  They reported that they were as insignificant and small as grasshoppers in the eyes of the people of the Land, and so they were in their own eyes!  

With their slanderous reports, they turned the hearts of the people against G-d and His Land.  וַתִּשָּׂא֙ כׇּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה וַֽיִּתְּנ֖וּ אֶת־קוֹלָ֑ם וַיִּבְכּ֥וּ הָעָ֖ם בַּלַּ֥יְלָה הַהֽוּא, and the entire assembly lifted up, and gave forth their voice, and the nation cried on that night (Bamidbar 14:1).  Chazal famously teach (Sotah 35a, Taanis 29a) אמר הקבה הן בכו בכיה של חנם ואני אקבע להם בכיה לדורות – In response to their crying for naught over the good, good Land, G-d said: You cried for no reason, I will establish for you a crying for generations.  

From that first Tisha b’Av, down to our day and time, R”L, we are still crying and mourning for the travails of galus, which originally emanated from their rejection of Eretz Yisrael.  

What was to be the punishment of that generation?  בְּמִסְפַּ֨ר הַיָּמִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־תַּרְתֶּ֣ם אֶת־הָאָ֘רֶץ֮ אַרְבָּעִ֣ים יוֹם֒ י֣וֹם לַשָּׁנָ֞ה י֣וֹם לַשָּׁנָ֗ה תִּשְׂאוּ֙ אֶת־עֲוֺנֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם אַרְבָּעִ֖ים שָׁנָ֑ה וִֽידַעְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־תְּנוּאָתִֽיLike the number of the days that you spied out the Land, forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year, shall you bear your iniquities – forty years – and you shall comprehend straying from Me (Bamidbar 14:34).  

HaRav Asher Weiss, shlita, writes, “Bnei Yisrael were forced to wander in the Wilderness for forty years, as punishment for the forty days in which their emissaries spied out the Land.  This implies that there were forty days of sin, for which Bnei Yisrael were correspondingly punished.

“However, one might wonder: The spies did not actually sin for forty days.  They did indeed journey through the Land for forty days, as they were commanded.  Their sin was only one day, when they delivered their malicious report, which discouraged Bnei Yisrael from entering the Promised Land.  Why then were they punished for forty years?

“It seems from here that the spies were not punished for the conclusion of their report, which indeed was delivered in only one day.  They were punished for their negative outlook, with which they evaluated Eretz Yisrael for forty days.

“The Gemara (Brachos 55b) tells us that when a person dreams, he is shown the thoughts of his heart.  The same is true while we are awake.  We are shown the world around us, refracted through the prism of our hearts.  If a person’s heart is pure, he sees the goodness inherent in those around him.  If his heart is tainted with pride and jealousy, he sees only his own virtues and the faults of all others.

“Our Sages (Medrash Bamidbar Rabbah) tells us that the spies ‘searched for the faults of Eretz Yisrael, which Hashem called ‘a good Land.’  They were not punished for reporting faults.  They were punished for looking for faults… From here we learn that what man sees is solely a reflection of his heart” (Rav Asher Weiss on the Parashah, Artscroll, p.139-140).  

The spies were punished for each day that they walked the land, for their trip was undertaken with a negative outlook, a poisonous attitude, and an ayin ra’ah (bad eye).  The lashon harah that they subsequently spoke was merely the product of that negativity.  

What a powerful lesson we can derive from here about the importance of seeing the good in the Land of Israel, in our nation, and in the ways of the RS”O.

“When Rav Yaakov Edelstein zt’l (1924-2017, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Ha’Sharon, brother of, ybl’ct, HaRav HaGaon Rav Gershon Edelstein shlita) delivered eulogies for deceased residents of Ramat Ha’Sharon, he always found something unique to say about each one.  One Ramat Ha’Sharon relates: ‘The praises he said and the honor he showed to the deceased was a real lesson.  Even if the person wasn’t exactly from his community, the Rav’s eulogy was totally heartfelt.  He would say meaningfully, ‘He loved his home, he loved his land, and he loved his wife.  I remember that one time a Jew who never came to beit knesset, except on Yom Kippur and for Yizkor, passed away.  Rav Edelstein eulogized him with the words, ‘He always mentioned his parents when he came to Shul…’  

“‘These eulogies taught me how you can find something positive, unique and even holy about every person.  Hearing Rav Edelstein give a eulogy made an impression, and everything he said was absolutely true!’” (Reaching for Heaven, Artscroll, p.101).

We must learn from the Spies and their report that the key to life, contentment, simcha and hakaras ha’tov (recognition of the good) lies in how we choose to view the world around us.  One who lives with an ayin tova will always see the good.  And one who does not, R”L, will bring ruination upon himself and those around him.  B’ezrat Hashem, may we always be of the former, and not the latter.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,

Michal

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