Parshas Shelach – Seeing the Good: Perception & Perspective

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Shelach, Moshe sends twelve spies to scout out the Land, as the nation prepares, imminently (or so it is believed) to enter into Eretz Yisrael, the Promised Land.

Moshe sends the spies with detailed instructions to investigate the cities of the land, the topography of the land, the people of the land, the produce and trees of the land.  The spies are to tour the land, length to breadth, and return with a report for the nation, who is anxiously awaiting news of the land it is about to enter. 

The end of the story we know all too well… “We cannot ascend; it is a land that consumes its inhabitants; the people are stronger than us; we are like grasshoppers; the fruits are enormous; there are giants in the land and Amalek – our arch enemy who attacked us as we left Egypt (see Shemos 17) – dwells there!” (See Bamidbar 13)

The report led the nation to believe that they were headed to disaster, to a Land that would consume them and their children.  And so, on that fateful, infamous, tragic, historic, senseless night of mourning, the people sat and cried (Bamidbar 14:1).

And for that cry, when the nation cried for no reason, Hashem swore to establish a crying for generations.  And from that first Tishaa b’Av (the fast of 9 Av, when we mourn for the destruction of the two Temples), we are still mourning. 

Only two of the scouts – Yehoshua and Calev – saw the the beauty in the good Land, and they attempted, though their voices of reason were drowned out by the hysteria that swept through the nation, to convince the nation that it could successfully enter the good land!

And they said to the entire assembly of Israel: הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ טוֹבָה הָאָרֶץ, מְאֹד מְאֹד – the land that we passed through, to spy it out, the Land is very very good

אִם חָפֵץ בָּנוּ ה’ וְהֵבִיא אֹתָנוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, וּנְתָנָהּ לָנוּ:  אֶרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר הִוא זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ – If Hashem desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey (Bamidbar 14:7-8). 

Alas, their words fell on deaf ears as the panicked nation attempted to stone them (14:10) for daring to utter positive words of encouragement and hope.

The yotzei Mitzrayim (generation that left Egypt) would no longer be the ba’ei Aretz (generation that entered the Land).  They would wander, and wander, and wander through the barren wilderness until the last of that generation had died out.  The people of that time lived simply to die.  Their children, the second generation, would be the ones to enter the Land. 

And we must ask ourselves, millennia later, if we love the Land as did Calev and Yehoshua?  As did Moshe Rabbeinu, who was banished forever from the Land he so desired to see? אֶעְבְּרָה-נָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן:  הָהָר הַטּוֹב הַזֶּה, וְהַלְּבָנֹן – Please, Hashem, let me pass over and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan River; the good mountain and the Lebanon (Devarim 3:25).    

We must ask ourselves, if we complain about the goings-on in the Land, or focus, instead, on the good in the Land?

While it’s true that not everything in life is “perfect” (whatever that even means!), it is our outlook, our focus, our positivity, our mindset, and our words, that often makes things, situations, people and life (and the Land!) good… or not.

The pasukim (verses) say:

אַתָּה תָקוּם, תְּרַחֵם צִיּוֹן: כִּי-עֵת לְחֶנְנָהּ, כִּי-בָא מוֹעֵד – You (Hashem) will arise, You will have mercy on Zion for there is a time to favor it, for the appointed time has arrived;

כִּֽי־רָצ֣וּ עֲ֭בָדֶיךָ אֶת־אֲבָנֶ֑יהָ וְֽאֶת־עֲפָרָ֥הּ יְחֹנֵֽנוּ – For Your servants desired its stones and favored its dust (Tehillim 102:14-15). 

When will the appointed time for redemption come?! 

When we desire even her dust and even her stones, when we long for the Land: טוֹבָה הָאָרֶץ מְאֹד מְאֹד – for she is very very good

כִּֽי־רָצ֣וּ עֲ֭בָדֶיךָ אֶת־אֲבָנֶ֑יהָ  – R’ Avraham Yitzchak Ha’Kohen Kook zt’l taught: “The Gemara states: R’ Abba used to kiss the boulders of Akko.  What was so special about these boulders, and why did R’ Abba kiss them, as opposed to the ground itself?

“R’ Kook explained: Had R’ Abba kissed clods of dirt, we might have thought that he did so because dirt yields fruits; and we might have concluded that the significance and sanctity of Eretz Yisrael is contingent upon the land-related precepts.  To avoid such a misconception, R’ Abba kissed the boulders, which are incapable of producing fruits.  This demonstrated that his love for Eretz Yisrael was unconditional, and that the sanctity of the Land is independent of any external factor” (An Angel Among Men, by S. Raz, p.272).

וְֽאֶת־עֲפָרָ֥הּ יְחֹנֵֽנוּ – Miriam Peretz writes of her journey from Morocco to the land of Israel when she was still a young girl, “…And on the distant horizon we caught a glimpse of land – Haifa.  The boat shook with cries of joy.  Endless ululations.  Mother covered her hair with a colorful embroidered Moroccan scarf, and Father disembarked in his elegant jalabiya.  He was standing straight, his head held high as he descended from the boat.  Then suddenly I saw him fall.  Father, what’s wrong?  Then I saw that my father wasn’t the only one lying down.  All the men were bowing, bending, lying flat on the ground.  And kissing.  Father, what you are kissing?  ‘I am kissing the earth of the Holy Land!’ Father exclaimed.  Dialna’ (it is ours) – he said, his voice choked (with emotion)…” (Miriam’s Song, p.13).

Perhaps when we truly desire even, and only, her dust and her stones, we will be mesaken (rectify) the sin of the scouts and their failure to see the good. 

May we merit to see the good in the Land – וּ֖רְאֵה בְּט֣וּב יְרֽוּשָׁלִָ֑ם כֹּ֜֗ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּֽיךָ (Tehillim 128:5), as we rejoice over all the good and our bountiful blessingsבטוב ירושלים: ושמחת בכל הטוב (Rashi, ibid). 

Perhaps then, we will stand by and witness the ultimate and final fulfillment of אַתָּה תָקוּם, תְּרַחֵם צִיּוֹן כִּי-עֵת לְחֶנְנָהּ, כִּי-בָא מוֹעֵד – when G-d will arise, so to speak, to have mercy on Zion, for the time of favor and redemption has come.  Halavay (would that it be!), immediately and in our days.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,



1 Comment
  • b
    Posted at 11:12h, 06 June

    Beautifully written. As an Olah Chadasha, I am still in the “honeymoon stage” where all the sights and sounds of this wonderful country continually inspire me. However, it all does depend on one’s attitude. One can easily be annoyed and frustrated by certain goings-on here. Yet, as long as we balance our real frustrations against the awesome miracle of living in the land promised to Avraham, and that we are participating in the huge mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, we learn to deal with the difficulties.