By Rabbi Aron Tendler
The More You Do, The More You Get
In last week's Parsha we discussed the incident of the Second Pesach -
Pesach Shaynie, and its symbolic importance. The individuals who petitioned
Moshe for a second chance to bring the Korban Pesach [the Passover
Sacrifice] were exempted from the Korban Pesach because they had been
Tammei (impure by having had contact with a corpse). Nevertheless, they did
not want the exemption; they wanted to bring their Korban. This incident
was recorded as an example of what it means to serve G-d. The true servant
desires to serve his master. The true servant finds self-actualization and
fulfillment through serving his master. The true servant does not want to
be exempt from serving.
In relation to G-d and Torah, this presentation of the meaning of true
service is even more profound. For the religionist, G-d is the purpose of
creation and the meaning of life. Service is its own reward and the inability
to serve is a punishment. As the Mishnah in Avos states, "Be as servants who
serve their master without the expectation of reward." Therefore, for the
Tammei individuals to be exempt from bringing a Korban Pesach was a true
loss, not a gain.
This example of true service to G-d was recorded after G-d had assigned
individual jobs to the various groups within the nation (Kohanim, Leviyim,
etc.). In doing so the Torah was making the following point: Everyone has a
job and a mission. Everyone is capable of becoming a true servant of G-d.
The simplest Jew and the holiest Torah scholar can equally be considered a
How does this week's Parsha, the story of the Miraglim - Spies, contrast
with the ideals of true service? Can we find further support for
understanding the nature of true service by contrasting Yehoshua and Kalev
with the other ten spies?
The Talmud in Kedushin (31a) contrasts the merit of performing a Mitzvah when
commanded to do so with the merit of performing a Mitzvah when not commanded
to do so.
"Rav Yoseph said, I have learned in the name of Rav Chaninah that the reward
for the performance of a Mitzvah by one who is commanded to do so is greater
than the reward for a Mitzvah done by one who is not commanded to do so.
Therefore, if someone can disprove the statement of Rav Yehudah that" a blind
man is exempt from doing Mitzvos, "I will make a party in celebration!"
We are taught that Rav Yoseph was blind, and according to Rav Yehudah a blind
person is exempt from doing Mitzvos. Therefore, according to Rav Yehudah, Rav
Yoseph was exempt from doing Mitzvos. At first, Rav Yoseph thought that his
blindness had a silver lining to it. He thought that his doing Mitzvos,
because he was exempt, was a greater sign of servitude than doing Mitzvos
when commanded. However, Rav Chaninah ruling changed all that. According to
Rav Chaninah, there was greater merit in doing a Mitzvah when commanded than
when not commanded.
Therefore, Rav Yoseph's blindness was a total loss! No sight, no obligtion to
do Mitzvos, and less merit for any Mitzvah he does do! Therefore, Rav Yoseph
advertised for anyone who might be able to disprove Rav Yehuda's statement
that the blind are exempt from doing Mitzvos.
The reason for there being greater merit in doing that which is commanded
than for doing that which is not commanded is psychologically sound. It is
common to the free willed humans (especially males) to resist anything that
they are commanded to do. They would more readily do it on their own than do
it when told to do so. (A basic tennet for a healthy spousal relationship is:
Model the behavioral change you want from your spouse - especially a husband,
do not mandate it!) Simply put, the human does not like being told what to
On the other hand, self-motivated acts are done with greater enthusiasm and
commitment. Therefore, there is greater merit in doing commanded Mitzvos
where the natural reluctance to do so must be overcome than there is in doing
voluntary Mitzvos that are driven by self-motivation and enthusiasm.
On the one hand, the voluntary performance of a Mitzvah, such as in the
story of the Pesach Shaynie, is a sign of true servitude. On the other hand,
one could argue that its performance reflects less servitude and more
The enthused servant might have a need to be a servant and therefore is
fulfilling a "sefish-need" through his enthusiastic service, albeit while
at the same time serving his master. The true test of servitude is when the
servant serves, regardless of personal benefit, or the lack there of. As
the Mishnah stated, "Be as servants who serve their master without the
expectation of reward."
As a final note to the story of Pesach Shaynie, it is interesting that the
reward for those Tammei individual's enthused and self-initiated petition was
the "Mitzvah" of Pesach Shaynie! No longer would their petition be
self-motivated. The true and just reward for their non-mandated desire was to
make it into a mandated commandment! The reward for wanting to do the Mitzvah
was to make it into a Mitzvah!
The story of the Miraglim is in stark contrast to the example of Pesach
Shaynie. The Miraglim were great individuals devoted to G-d and the Jewish
people; yet, something went terribly wrong. For some reason, they seemingly
returned from their mission having lost faith in G-d and the destiny of the
I would like to suggest that the Miraglim saw the Promised Land as certain
death and destruction for the Jews. The Spies predicted a difficult campaign
to take the land. They had seen the great,fortified, cities inhabited by
legendary warriors and they feared that the Jews would have to fight for the
land against its inhabitants.
They may have understood the battle for the land to be a necessary stage for
reintegrating the nation into the norms of life. Two years of miraculous
existence in the desert was not the intended reality for the Bnai Yisroel.
Their intended reality was to model for the world how to weave belief and
service into the daily fabric of life and living.To do so the Jews would have
to stop eating Manna and stop depending on point-guards of clouds and fire.
They would have to act out the norms of invasion and victory by sending
Spies, gathering information, planning a strategy, executing a plan, while
accepting that every victory along the way was solely G-d's doing.
The land of Israel was a "land that consumed its inhabitants." Only the
strong in body and spirit could survive the demands and challenges of the
Promised Land. Since the exodus from Egypt the Jews had gained a degree of
trust in themselves and G-d ‚Ä" but only because of G-d's overt, miraculous,
intervention. In order to inherit and keep the Promised Land the Jews would
have to take the lessons of the Exodus (G-d's overt intervention) and find
His ever-present benevolence behind the fade of nature. The process of
transition from G-d's overt intervention to His hidden intervention would
challenge the courage and faith of the Jewish people.The Spies feared that
the nation was not ready to meet the challenge.
The Spies were afraid that the Jews would not be able to handle the
inevitable difficulties of war and occupation. They feared that in the
process they would loose faith in G-d and His chosen leaders. They feared
that because of all that had happened during and after the Exodus G-d would
not forgive the people for loosing faith, and Eretz Yisroel would be taken
away from them!
The greatest tragedy of all is that the Miraglim succeeded in creating a
self-fulfilling prophecy. Had they returned full of enthusiasm and optimism
they would have strengthened the faith of the nation and guaranteed that the
Jews would never again suffer exile and persecution.They would have
guaranteed the beginning of the messianic era! Instead they demoralized the
nation and caused them to loose faith in G-d and themselves. In the end, they
delayed the messianic era and caused the demise of an entire generation!
What went wrong? How could great, G-d-fearing men make such a terrible
mistake? How is it that Yehoshua and Kalev kept their faith and did not make
the same mistake?
The story of Pesach Shaynie taught the value of accepting servitude and the
reward of "being commanded." The story of the Miraglim teaches us the
pitfalls of conditional servitude and the punishment for questioning G-d's
promises and methods.
The end of last week's Parsha states, "Moshe was more humble than anyone
else." Moshe's humility was a product of having accepted his personal fate
and G-d's commandments without question or reservation. Therefore, regardless
of the fact that Moshe was greater than anyone else was, he did not see
himself as greater. Whoever accepted their personal fate and G-d's
commandments without question or reservation was equally as great as Moshe.
His humility was greatest because he truly was the greatest. Moshe had the
most justifiable reasons for being egotistical and self-congratulatory, but
The bottom line is, are we true servants? Do we accept G-d on His conditions,
or on our own? The petitioners of the Pesach Shaynie accepted G-d's primacy.
Moshe accepted G-d's primacy. Kalev and Yehoshua accepted G-d's primacy. The
Miraglim did not.
Following the incident of the Miraglim (15:2), G-d commanded the laws of the
Nisachim "wine libations that accompany all self-motivated offerings" a
"Nedavah." My Grandfather Zt"l, in his Sefer Darash Moshe explained the
relationship between the story of the Miraglim and the laws of the libations.
The Miraglim failed because they questioned the nation's faith and courage.
Yehoshua and Kalev, on the other hand, kept their faith because they did not
question the ability of the nation to have faith in G-d.
Kalev and Yehoshua's faith was further evidenced in their strength and
courage to stand against the crowd and do the right thing, regardless of
personal safety and concern. Because of their faith and courage G-d rewarded
them with even greater positions of leadership and responsibility. Yehoshua
would one day succeed Moshe as leader and Kalev would become prince of the
tribe Yehudah. My Grandfather Zt"l explained that once a person expresses
unconditional faith in G-d and His commandments G-d rewards him with greater
opportunities for doing Mitzvos. "One Mitzvah leads to another."
The Nedavah was a free willed offering. The purpose of the free willed Korban
was to express closeness to G-d and unconditional acceptance of His Torah.
Often the Nedavah would be motivated by personal reasons of gratitude and
thanksgiving; however, it was still a free willed offering. G-d's reward for
this free willed expression of acquiescence and unconditional acceptance was
to "obligate" the owner of the Nedavah to offer a libation. Just as the
petitioners for the Korban Pesach were rewarded with the commandment of
Pesach Shaynie, and Yehoshua and Kalev were given greater responsibilities, so
too was the initiator of the Nedavah commanded to bring an accompanying
As a final note on the Miraglim, it is ironic that the very thing the
Miraglim hoped to avoid, the nation's loss of faith if G-d, they were
responsible for causing. The most important thing is to do what's right
because it is right, not for any other reason. However, that is predicated
on having faith in G-d. To the degree that a person believes in G-d and has
faith in His ever-present benevolence is the degree to which he or she is
able to fully trust the absolute goodness of G-d's commandments, regardless
of personal reservation or question.
Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.