web analytics
August 2, 2015 / 17 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Torah »

The Sin of the Spies – Perspective

New Olim

Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FlashLASH90

In my experience as a Synagogue Rabbi, I found that so much of life is about perspective. Helping congregants deepen their commitment to Judaism, deepen their relationships with one another, I learned that often fear paralyzes people from achieving their goals. I also learned that a positive attitude makes for a richer, fuller, more meaningful life.

The above might seem obvious – but it wasn’t obvious to the Ten Spies who returned from the Land with a negative report. They were the leaders of the Jewish Nation: “All distinguished men; heads of the Children of Israel were they” (Num. 13:3). But their lack of faith and their lack of vision brought about consequences that, according to the Talmud, we still suffer from today (See Ta’anit 29a).

What did they do that was so wrong, it warranted forty years of wandering in the desert? What was so egregious, that turned the 9th of Av, the day they returned with their report, into a day of tragedy and mourning for the rest of Jewish History?

In their first report, the Spies relate:

We arrived at the land to which you have sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But – the people that dwells in the land is powerful, the cities are large, and we also so there the offspring of the giant (Num. 13:27-28).

With the word “but,” they begin their editorial. They are no longer objective. They bring in their negativity and project their fears. They see themselves as “grasshoppers” (v. 33), in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Land.

While the Spies tell the Jewish People, “We cannot ascend” (v. 31), Caleb tells them, “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!” (v. 30) For the Spies, it is a land that “devours it inhabitants,” (v. 32) but for Joshua and Caleb, “the Land is very, very good” (Num. 14:8).

Twelve Spies went to scout out the Land. Ten maligned the Land, while two defended it. But they all saw the same land! To see the Land as an insurmountable challenge or, to see it as a goodly Land, is a choice. It’s a matter of perspective.

This week, while walking through Shuk Machaneh Yehudah, Jerusalem’s open air market, I noticed some unusually large fresh figs. They were bright green, and as big as apples. At first I didn’t know what they were. After doing a double take, I purchased the fruit, which turned out to be sweet and delicious – the best figs I have ever eaten. I was reminded of how the Spies, “…cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole, by two, and of the pomegranates and of the figs” (13:23). A famous interpretation has it that the grapes were so large they had to be carried “on a pole, by two.” They carried this mutant fruit back, “with the intent to spread slander, ‘Just as the fruit is unusual, so are its people unusual” (Rashi, ad loc.). But the Spies had a choice. Instead of seeing these large fruits as “unusual,” they could have seen them as a product of Hashem’s blessing – a gift from God; a symbol of sustenance and abundance. As Rashi emphasizes, it was all a matter of intent. The Spies chose to see the negative.

Let’s not confuse a positive outlook with naïveté, or being a Pollyanna. One can look through rose-colored glasses and still recognize the problems. But one who posses a deep faith, who truly believes that “whatever the Merciful One does is for the good” (Berachot 60b), will see the good in the vicissitudes of life. The challenges of life are obstacles to overcome and lessons to be learned. The Sin of the Spies was so egregious, because rather than possessing the faith and strength to recognize the Divine blessings of the Land, with all of its challenges, they chose to color their report with their fears and negativity.

The message of the Biblical account of the Spies has tremendous relevance today, here in the modern State of Israel. With a nuclear threat from Iran, enemy states on its borders, the ever-constant fear of terrorism, and pressure from the International Community, Israel is not without its challenges. But it’s also the ‘Start Up Nation,’ with a healthy, growing economy when most of the world’s economies are failing. It is at the forefront of many technologies and industries, research and development. It is a country that is hated by the world, yet continues to shower the world with acts of kindness.

About the Author: Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel lives and teaches in Jerusalem.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Sin of the Spies – Perspective”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Iranian oil tanker (file photo).
Iran Banks on End to Sanctions, Will Raise Oil Production to 1M bpd
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

By internalizing the Exodus, it is as if we ourselves were redeemed from Egypt.

Neihaus-073115

Each Shabbos we add the tefilla of “Ritzei” to Birchas HaMazon. In it we ask Hashem that on this day of Shabbos He should be pleased with us and save us. What exactly do we want to be saved from? Before we answer this question, let’s talk about this Friday, the 15th of Av. Many […]

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Amongst the greatest disagreements in Judaism is the understanding of the 1st of the 10 Commandments

Daf-Yomi-logo

The Day He Heard
‘One May Seek Revocation Of A Confimation’
(Nedarim 69a)

The director picked up the phone to Rabbi Dayan. “One of our counselors lost his check,” he said. “Do we have to issue a new one or is it his loss?”

Six events occurred on Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, making it a festive day in the Jewish calendar.

Why would Moshe Rabbeinu have thought that the vow that disallowed him to enter Eretz Yisrael was annulled simply because he was allowed to conquer and enter the land of Sichon and Og?

Question: When a stranger approaches a congregant in shul asking for tzedakah, should the congregant verify that the person’s need is genuine? Furthermore, what constitutes tzedakah? Is a donation to a synagogue, yeshiva, or hospital considered tzedakah?

Zvi Kirschner
(Via E-Mail)

Snow in Jerusalem! For many New Englanders like me, snow pulls at our nostalgic heartstrings like nothing else can.

Man has conflicting wishes and desires. Man has forces pulling him in competing directions.

Perhaps the admonition here is that we should not trivialize the events of the past by saying that they are irrelevant to the modern Jew.

One must view the settlement of Israel in a positive light. Thinking otherwise is a grievous sin.

Reaching a stronger understanding of what Moses actually did to prevent him from entering the land

Anti-Zionism, today’s anti-Semitism, has gone viral, tragically supported globally & by many Jews

More Articles from Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel
The Vilna Gaon

All secular wisdom is essential for our Holy Torah and is included in it.

Nadel-050313

A flag with the Star of David hung prominently in the synagogues of Prague since the mid-14th century, with the approval of their great rabbis.

Minutes after candle-lighting, sirens rang out in Jerusalem, disturbing the peace and tranquility ushered in by Shabbat. Earlier that day, my wife and I assured our parents that we are far from the rockets in our home in Har Nof, a quiet suburb nestled in the Jerusalem Forest.

In February, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law discriminatory and unconstitutional in a vote of six to three. The law, which provides exemptions for young men studying in yeshiva full time, has been the subject of much criticism and controversy.

The message of the Biblical account of the Spies has tremendous relevance today, here in the modern State of Israel. With a nuclear threat from Iran, enemy states on its borders, the ever-constant fear of terrorism, and pressure from the International Community, Israel is not without its challenges. But it’s also the ‘Start Up Nation,’ with a healthy, growing economy when most of the world’s economies are failing.

In the early days of Statehood, when Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, the famed Chazon Ish, and other leading rabbis reached a compromise with David Ben Gurion to provide military exemptions for yeshiva students, only some 400 students were exempted. Writing about a Milchemet Mitzvah, the Chazon Ish himself recognized that “if there is a need for them, they must come to the aid of their brethren.”

It has been said ‘It is easier to take the Jew out of the Exile, than to take the Exile out of the Jew’. While in Egypt, the Jewish people could not even hear Hashem’s promise of Redemption because of their “shortness of spirit.” Their bondage wasn’t merely a physical bondage, but a mental one. And so, while still in Egypt, Hashem began the process of taking the Jew out of the psychology of Exile, ridding him of his slave mentality.

With thousands of Haggadot in print, it can be overwhelming to decide what to buy and what to use at the Seder. Just like kashering the home for Pesach requires preparation, so too the material for the Seder. And according to the investment is the return. Below are twenty of my favorite Haggadot.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/the-sin-of-the-spies-perspective/2012/06/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: