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  • Yehuda Pevzner

A Natural Mistake

The Torah portion of Shlach relates how the men sent to spy out Eretz Yisrael returned and reported that the country was unconquerable and that the Jewish people would be unable to enter the land. 

Furthermore, the spies claimed that even G-d couldn’t conquer the land, either. Their words caused great pain among the Jews, who feared that they would be unable to enter Eretz Yisrael.

How was it possible for the spies to mislead the Jewish people and convince them that even G-d could not help them, when the Jews themselves had constantly witnessed the miracles performed on their behalf, such as the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the miraculous delivery of food and water in the desert? 

They should have understood that just as G-d performed miracles for them in Egypt and the desert, He would also perform miracles for them in their battle for Canaan.

Chassidus explains that the spies did not want to enter Eretz Yisrael, preferring to remain in the desert, because they did not want to descend into the realm of the material and occupy themselves with the mundane.

While the Jews were in the desert they were cut off from the material world; even their food and drink transcended materiality, and their clothing grew along with them. They were able to occupy themselves solely with learning Torah and connecting with G-d. 

All this ceased upon entry into Eretz Yisrael and they were forced to work the land, which involved physical labor such as plowing, sowing, etc. The spies preferred the wholly spiritual lifestyle of the desert. They thought entering Eretz Yisrael would negate their spirituality.

Despite their lofty idealism, the spies’ aspirations were misplaced: the purpose of creation is to make a dwelling place for G-d by transforming the physical world into a vessel for G-dliness. They could only do this in Eretz Yisrael, when they are involved in the physical world and the physical mitzvot. 

Then, as now, the goal is to make the physical world into a place for G-d. G-dliness is not limited to spirituality. 

Begin the work by lighting Shabbat candles this week at 8:13 PM (in NYC). 

Shabbat Shalom!


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