Parashat Shelach – The Spies – 2009
Israel is a place that is difficult to describe. It depends on the eyes of one’s mind: if they are open or closed. The portrayal that the spies gave was not based on figments of their imaginations, but visualization based on the tunnel vision these spiritual people had when they beheld a seemingly physical land. They were afraid of its physicality. They gaped at the giants (who chazal tell us had no shadows), beheld the disproportional huge fruits, and wondered at the funeral processions that went on endlessly. Spectating the strong people that dwelled there, they perceived the carnal nature of their existence and shuddered thinking that something was certainly wrong.
The spies were the chiefs of the tribes of Israel. Their commentary, through the mouth of supremacy, is what shaped the subjective opinions of all of Am Yisrael. These leaders preferred to remain in the desert, the portraiture of spiritualism, and learn Torah. They were later held accountable for their complaint. “Why has the Lord brought us to this Land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should be prey? Would it not be better to return to Mitzrayim?” Their prejudice was a class prejudice that placed them above the glass ceiling looking down with a bird’s eye view, which in fact was a worm’s eye view.
Not knowing that “Na-aseh Ve’nishma”- we will do and we will listen, applies equally to the goal of self sacrifice, for the ultimate purpose of Hashem’s will, that the torah was a blueprint for the intended life in the Land of Israel. Instead of the children entering the land, knowing it, loving it, tilling it’s soil, building homes, and sanctifying it- the spies refused to actualize G-d’s name by letting them in. They became terrified at the very thought of leaving the manna, the clouds of glory, the pillar of fire, the miracles. They had difficulty leaving this comfort, where they nursed spirituality all day long. An important Torah brought down by Harav Chaim Hacohen (Hachalban) focuses on the complaint about the worry for the children’s safety and welfare. The image we see of a young child eating is one of him crumbling most of his food while only a little enters his mouth and is digested. The spies feared that the new generation of children would not have the liberty to eat “spiritual food” all day, but rather be occupied with the meddlesome business of task after task, crumbling their torah time away.
Only, the Land of Israel is not like any other land in the world. It is so alive that even it’s inanimate features look you in the face and tell you a story. The intuition you feel there is so great that if you are afraid of it, it can wear a shroud. It can look like any beach and bar tourist attraction. It can have nastiness. It can seem indifferent to the sacrilegious acts against it. That is the test. On closer inspection, it is the place Hashem chose to reveal judgment in mercy, the accused- innocent. To turn a blind eye to the hidden reality of the Land of Israel is to sin the sin of the spies.
The job of the child is to preempt, to construct for the next generations to follow. Ephraim were the first to leave Egypt. Maybe that’s why the picture on their banner is one of a child. May the parents of Jewish children all over the world let their children do the holy job of plowing the fields of the Land, the Land that all of humanity gleans the light of Hashem and His HOLY torah. May we see continued growth and many many more children thriving on the ancient hills and valleys of the Land that Hashem promised before time to the Jewish people.
Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith