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Posted on May 27, 2021 (5781) By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner | Series: | Level:

This week Parshas Shlach is read in Eretz Yisroel {the Land of Israel} while Parshas B’haaloscha is read outside the Land of Israel. I am presently away from home, visiting the United States for Yeshiva business and a wedding. As such, this will be somewhat unique for me as it is the first parsha sheet that I’m writing in the USA. When I’ve traveled in the past I’ve either written in advance or written on the plane. In accordance with my transitory state, we will start with an idea from Shlach and then double back to B’haaloscha.

Parshas Shlach begins: “And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Shlach l’cha anashim {Send forth for yourself men} and let them spy out the Land of Canaan that I am giving to Bnei Yisroel {the Children of Israel}. [13:1]” Rashi explains that our passukim {verses} are actually picking up in the middle of the story. We learn in Devarim [Deuteronomy 1:22-23] that initially Bnei Yisroel approached Moshe with the idea of spying the land. Moshe conferred with Hashem who responded with the words of our parsha: Shlach l’cha–I’m not commanding you to do this. If you want you can send for yourself.

The Medrash reveals more of the discussion that took place between Moshe and Bnei Yisroel. When they approached Moshe with the idea of sending spies, Moshe wanted to know why. They explained that Hashem had promised that they would enter Eretz Yisroel and inherit all of its treasures. Their concern was that when the nations residing there would hear that we, Bnei Yisroel, are arriving they would hide their riches. If we would arrive and not inherit their wealth there would be a desecration of Hashem’s name by His word not being fulfilled.

Rav Dessler makes a fascinating observation. The generation that witnessed the Exodus from Mitzrayim {Egypt} and all that accompanied it right through to the revelation on Sinai, were on a dizzyingly high spiritual level. Nevertheless, they erred and honestly thought that their desire to send the spies was motivated purely by concern for Hashem’s honor.

Furthermore, even Moshe was fooled. As the Medrash teaches, when Moshe heard their thoughts it was good in his eyes. Incredible. Moshe, who was able to see the innermost essence of every individual by simply looking at that person’s face, wasn’t able to detect that their intentions were not totally pure.

It is clear that the mistake that Bnei Yisroel were making was so slight and subtle that it was impossible for even Moshe to detect it. This is evidenced by the fact that Moshe was cleared of any complicity in the ultimate sin of the spies. It was Bnei Yisroel’s sin–not Moshe’s. If this sin was in fact so unperceivable and subtle that even Moshe couldn’t detect it, why were Bnei Yisroel held responsible and punished so severely for it?

Rav Dessler writes that sheker {falsehood} can never completely cover the truth. We might be able to fool others and even convince others to agree with our view but we can never truly fool ourselves. It might have been indiscernible to Moshe but Bnei Yisroel could have seen the truth. If they didn’t, then they were, to a certain degree, intentionally obscuring and ignoring the truth.

I spent this past Shabbos with the groom. Following the afternoon seudah {festive meal} we went to a friend’s house. With us there was another Rabbi of the groom who teaches in a nearby school. Upon hearing that his student Michael lived nearby, this Rabbi immediately decided to stop by and visit him. He found him in a nearby park, not in the most Shabbos-suitable attire, and warmly invited him to join us. This boy came over, a bit nervous at first, but ultimately spent a few hours speaking and relaxing with all of us. He then explained that he was tired and returned home to rest up a bit.

We thought that was the last we’d see of him but as we were later walking to synagogue, this boy fell into line with us, dressed in a three-piece suit, and accompanied us. He remained for all of the prayers and then accompanied us back to the house. On the way back he asked me a question which he said had been bothering him for a long time. If G-d really exists, he asked, why doesn’t He do some miracles for us and prove Himself?

I took a famous incident that I believe involved Rav Yisroel Salanter and couched it in terms that I felt he’d relate to. I asked him if he would agree that Michael Jordan is an amazing basketball player and he readily did. I then asked him that if he’d challenge MJ to a game, would MJ need to play him and beat him in order to prove his abilities. He laughed and said that he’s proven it already and he certainly doesn’t need to accept every challenge in order to prove it further. I explained that Hashem had already proven His abilities in Egypt and at Sinai and He too didn’t need to prove it to every non-believer that comes along. He was ecstatic over the answer and told me that I had resolved an issue that had been bothering him for years.

I thought to myself that this boy had heard some excellent answers before yet this one hit the mark. What really happened? My hunch is that until now he really didn’t want to hear an answer–it was easier to reject all approaches.

He was, like Bnei Yisroel at the time of the spies, intentionally obscuring and ignoring the truth. Now that he had enjoyed a warm Shabbos afternoon, he was no longer fighting against it. On the contrary, he now wanted to have a reason to follow the truth that had always been evident to him but he had chosen to ignore. I was simply in the right place at the right time so my answer hit the mark. We invariably know the truth-we just have to make a decision to act upon it.

In B’haaloscha we begin with the kindling of the Menorah. All of the wicks faced toward the middle light as opposed to each pointing in a different direction to further spread their light. This illustrated the concept that the Mishkan didn’t need the illumination of the lights–rather the world needs the illumination of the Mishkan.

A person is considered a Mikdash m’at–a microcosm of the Tabernacle. We too must allow our own lights of clarity to shine through. Not obscuring the truths that are really so self evident to us.

Good Shabbos,
Yisroel Ciner

Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).