Photo Credit: The Jewish Museum, New York
The Grapes of Canaan, Artist: Tissot, The Jewish Museum, New York

Two Torah portions are very embarrassing for Jews in the Diaspora. The first is the Torah portion of “Lech Lecha” where G-d tells Abraham that He is giving him and his descendants the Land of Israel as their eternal Homeland. While everyone in shuls from New York to LA, Melbourne and Antwerp, manage to keep a Shabbos smile on their faces while the Torah portion is read, droplets of sweat starts to form under the knots of their ties. After all, G-d obviously wants His children living in the Promised Land, so what are they doing in New York, LA, Melbourne and Antwerp?

The other embarrassing portion is this week’s reading, “Shelach.” The Torah relates how the leaders of the nation, the leading rabbis and the directors of the major Jewish organizations (which were called Tribes in those days and not Federations, Unions, or Congregations) rebelled against G-d’s commandment to live in the Land of Israel, preferring to remain in the wilderness of Sinai, where they enjoyed the good life, like Jewish life in America and Australia today. They claimed that while the Land of Israel was certainly beautiful, it was dangerous to live there. Knowing the Torah better than Hashem, they argued that saving Jewish life was the most supreme mitzvah, freeing them of the obligation to obey Hashem’s oft-repeated command to journey on into the Holy Land. They said, no, “We will keep all of the commandments except the one about living in Israel – that isn’t for us.” Calling them rebels and non-believers, Hashem killed them all. It is all written very clearly in the Torah. I’m not making things up.


Only two of the leaders, Yehoshua and Calev, agreed to follow Hashem. Their efforts to rally the others proved fruitless. All of the other 10 leaders, the top rabbis and the directors of the major Jewish

organizations, along with all those who followed their rebellious advice, perished in the wilderness in shame.

The book “Mesillat Yesharim” or “The Path of the Just” is a universally recognized classic Jewish text, found in every yeshiva, and in every Orthodox home. In Chapter 19, in his study of saintliness, the book’s universally respected author, Rabbi Haim Luzzato, explains that the reason the Spies, who were the leaders of the Tribes, the leading rabbis and heads of the Sanhedrin, didn’t want to make Aliyah to the Land of Israel was because they feared it would lessen their honor. Yes, their honor. They realized that in Israel, it wasn’t enough for a leader to be expert in learning Gemara and Halacha in the Beit Midrash, while the Clouds of Glory took care of all the physical needs of the people. In the Land of Israel, a new type of leadership was needed, leaders with a multitude of talents, including military talents, agricultural talents, economic talents, political talents, building talents, national figures who could inspire the Jewish People to build their own independent Statehood, without being dependent on the Clouds of Glory – or whatever foreign, gentile country that took care of national needs. The Spies realized that in Israel they wouldn’t continue to be big rabbis and directors of Diaspora organizations for which there was no longer a need. So instead of urging the Jewish People to continue on to the Land of Israel, they told them that it was best to stay put where they were, in the wilderness, as strangers in strange gentile lands. That’s what it says in the book “Mesillat Yesharim.” I am not making things up.

Once again today, Diasporas leaders are not leading the Jewish People to Israel. Instead they are holding on to their positions of honor. And the Jews in the Diaspora are ‘diasporing’ away.



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