In this week’s parsha we begin with the fateful episode of the meraglim, or spies, who were sent to seek out the land of Israel. As we all know, ten of them came back with a slanderous report and the nation cried over it. This sealed a decree to cry for all generations, alluding to the destruction of the first and second Batei Hamikdash.
Also in this week’s parsha, the Torah gives the halachos of committing an accidental sin, for which one must bring a korban chattas.
The end of the parsha has the portion of tzitzis. The Torah writes that we should not follow our hearts and our eyes, which lead us astray, but rather should wear tzitzis which remind us to always follow the Torah and mitzvos.
Is there a connection between all of these components? The basic sin of the spies was that they did not perceive the data correctly. For example, they saw funerals and incorrectly interpreted them to mean that the land kills its inhabitants. In truth, Hashem caused these deaths in order to preoccupy the residents and allow the spies to do their work. They saw extremely large fruit and interpreted that to mean that, just as the fruit are extreme and strange, so are the inhabitants. This, too, was a misinterpretation of the facts.
The next part of the parsha details accidental sins. What is an accidental sin? If someone is not aware of his surroundings and so sins, e.g. he does not know it is Shabbos and turns on a light. Although this is an accident, the Torah expects us to be aware of our situations and not allow such accidents to occur. It is for that reason that a person is required to atone for his accidental sin. The core principle here, as well as in the case of the meraglim, is misinterpreting our surroundings.
In the final portion of this week’s parsha, the Torah discusses using our eyes properly. Our eyes are our spies, which use to interpret the world we live in. The Torah is warning us to use our spies correctly and not follow the wrong path; instead, we are to keep on the path of the Torah. The temptations of this world are but smoke and mirrors. Our task is to see them for what they are, and not to follow our heart’s desires.
The universal theme of this week’s parsha seems to be interpreting facts correctly, and not listening to fake news. The President has popularized the term “fake news” and continuously uses it to refer to the mainstream media in this country, who report events inaccurately. In fact, the media has spread falsehoods about the wonderful things this president has done and suppressed stories that would promote his great achievements. They also conceal news that would be detrimental to the president’s opponents. By claiming to be news outlets, these organizations instead become our meraglim, bringing back honest reports of what is happening in the world. In truth, they are one-sided opinions, which do a disservice to the public.
This president has put forth more constructive and morally beneficial policies and appointments, and has done more positive things for Israel, than any other U.S. president in history! Yet, so many Americans and (liberal) Jews still do not view him favorably. How can this be? How do these actions not outweigh any negative qualities they think the president possesses? Because they are all falling for the daily lies of the fake news.
The lesson of this week’s parsha is to learn from the mistake of the spies who interpreted what they saw in Eretz Yisrael incorrectly. We are expected to be aware of our surroundings and prevent accidental sins – to use our “spies,” our eyes, to properly lead us in the proper direction.