“The people approached Moses in a disorderly, disrespectful manner…. When there is no respect, the approach must be suspect…” (ArtScroll Chumash, commentary on Devarim 1:22).
Once we lose our perspective, everything falls apart. The Promise that has enabled us to do the impossible becomes nullified by our belief that we are not above the laws of nature. That’s when we fall. And when we fall – since we have risen so high – we fall far, far down. The former spiritual giant becomes like a grasshopper. Our exalted destiny turns to dust and we are left to the nonexistent mercy of the cruel, hostile world.
We are God’s witnesses. We must not fall, but if we do, it is the most horrible chillul Hashem, because it then seems as if God Himself is not in control. That is why “You have wept for no reason”is the seed of disaster, torture, exile and destruction. That is why Tisha B’Av is the day of weeping throughout the generations.
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Where do we go from here?
We stand at the beginning of the Three Weeks. It is all happening again. The hands of our enemies are joined. The missiles are being stockpiled. Headlines scream the degradation of the Jew and cartoons once again depict us as vermin and parasites. The contemporary Nephilim sneer at us as if we were grasshoppers.
When you look at Israel today, you really have to tremble. It looks like Tisha B’Av all over again, God forbid, except that this time much of the world is lined up against us, not “just” the Babylonian or the Roman empire. How can a tiny nation survive in such a world?
The answer is to be found in the very last paragraph of the very same parshah that contains the account of the meraglim. Parshas Shelach ends with the law of tzitzis, which seems totally out of context. What is the law of tzitzis doing here?
It is solving the meraglim’s problem and handing us the key to survival in a hostile world.
Listen once more to the words of the meraglim:
“There we saw the Nephilim…we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes.”
During the summer we must guard our eyes even more than during the rest of the year. Just look at what happened in Gan Eden: “the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eyes” (Bereishis 3:6). Those eyes are so dangerous. If they stare at another person with fear – or perhaps with lust – their owner becomes a prisoner of his own eyes and loses his ability to serve God.
What’s the antidote?
“It shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them, and not explore after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray” (Bamidbar 15:39).
Are you looking at fearsome men or alluring women?
Or are you looking at – lehavdil – the Torah and its mitzvos?
If you look at the tzitzis with concentration, you are going to remember that Hashem alone controls our destiny. We rise above nature only when we remember that “ein od milvado” – there is no one besides Him. This takes an act of will. This takes a lifetime of discipline. But this in fact is our life’s work. This is how we rise above nature and flourish against all the odds.
When we say the Shema each day, we look at those tzitzis and remember the 613 Commandments. We cement our unique relationship with the Lord of the Universe and we guarantee that He will sustain us. That is why the paragraph ends, “I am Hashem, your God, Who has removed you from the land of Egypt to be a God unto you” (Bamidbar 15:40).