THE LURE OF LIFE
Volume 4 Issue 37
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Rarely do we find that Hashem's commands assume personal connotations. The
commands are meted for the sake of Judaism and the glory of Heaven. Yet,
disturbingly, we find the mission of the spies defined with very personal
invectives. The Torah begins with Hashem commanding Moshe, "Send for
yourself spies to scour the land of Israel." Why is the command tainted
with such a personal epithet? Is Moshe sending the spies for himself? In
fact, Moshe reviews the entire episode in Deuteronomy, stating how the idea
of spies found favor in his eyes. The commentaries are quick to point out
that the idea found favor in Moshe's mortal's eyes, but Hashem disapproved.
Therefore He told Moshe send the spies for yourself. "As far as I am
concerned," Hashem infers, "it is a mistake, but if that is what you
desire, then proceed." Thus the words, "send for yourself spies."
Of course, the dire consequences of the mission are well known. The spies
returned and maligned the Land of Israel. They were punished along with
the entire nation that joined them in their misconceived sorrow, and the
next 40 years were spent wandering in the desert.
But we are human, and our intentions are tinged with mortal bias. Isn't
every mortal action filled with human bias and mortal partiality.
Adam Parker Glick, President of the Jack Parker Corporation, told me a
A wealthy man decided to take up the sport of fishing. He rented a cottage
near a Vermont lake and barreled into the local sport and wildlife shop and
demanded to see the manager.
"I want to buy the best of everything: the most expensive rod and tackle,
the best hooks, anglers, and even the most exquisite bait!" The store
owner, who had seen his share of city-folk, was not impressed. He
instructed a young salesman to follow the man around the store and serve as
a human shopping cart. The man chose the most exquisite rods and reels; he
selected a mahogany tackle box and a refrigerated bait cooler. Money was
no object, and the fisherman-to-be selected the finest of all. The
enthusiastic young salesman was extremely eager to please and offered him
every imaginable fishing item and accessory. The owner, a crusty and
seasoned Vermonter just smirked at the naivete of the new-found angler.
As the tycoon approached the checkout counter, he noticed brightly colored,
hand-painted fishing lures whose prices were as outlandish as the colors.
"Wow!" he exclaimed, as he gathered a bunch into his hand. "These look
really wonderful!" Then he turned to the manager and in a voice sounding as
well informed as possible, he asked the owner, "do fish really go for these?"
"Don't know," shrugged the old-timer. "I don't sell to fish."
Moshe reluctantly agreed to the whims and premonitions of a nervous and
anxious nation. He agreed to their pleading to allow spies to check the
land that they would ultimately inherit. But by no means was it a Divine
mission. Hashem told Moshe send spies for yourself. He taught Moshe that
missions that are fueled by self-fulfillment are doomed.
Often, we stand at the check-out counter of life and choose the impulse
items with the view that they are necessary for our success. We marvel at
the brightly-colored lures and find it hard to imagine life without them.
We rationalize that they are needed for the sake of family, livelihood, and
even spirituality. We think we are purchasing them for lofty reasons and
negate the fact that perhaps selfishness and insecurity are the driving
forces behind the proverbial sale. We buy them thinking that they are the
items that will catch the fish, but ultimately, we are the only ones caught!
Moshe was about to send spies on a seemingly sacred mission. The mission
may have been falsely justified in hundreds of different ways: the
operation would save lives, it would prepare a young nation for a smooth
transition and pave a new level of spirituality for the fledgling folk. But
those were not the true objectives. There was selfishness involved. And the
mission was doomed. For the road to the lowest of places is paved with
Therefore Hashem told Moshe that there is only one motivation behind the
mission. They are not sending spies for Hashem. The nation is sending spies
for its own ego and insurance. "Send them for yourself." G-d does not need
scouts, guides, or pathfinders. He does not sell to fish. He just may
yield to those who are selfish. And ultimately they get the hook.
(c)1998 Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
My apologies to those of you who did not get Drasha (Parsha Parables) for
Parshas Pinchas. I received many e-mail messages from eager anticipators
who never received it. They could not have. I did not send it!
Yasher Koach to the hundreds of responders to my request for a back of the
new book quote. I received letters fron South Africa to Singapore, Taiwan
to Tel Aviv and even exotic places such as Woodmere! (Kudos to Rabbi
A great big Yasher Koach to Mayer Winter, who publishes Bain Gavra L'Gavra,
an amazing 40 plus page compendium of internet Torah! I will try not to
miss my part in it!
If you enjoy the weekly Drasha, now you can receive the best of Drasha in book form!
- from the Project Genesis bookstore - Genesis Judaica - at a very special price!