Friday, June 15, 2012

Ask Not Whether, But How

by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson

Kill the Messenger? Why were the Spies Condemned for Reporting the Facts?

The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer. -- General Montgomery

The Hole in the Roof
A rabbi stands before his congregation and reports to them that a massive hole has been found in the roof of the synagogue.

"Now I have good news and bad news for you," the Rabbi continues. "The good news is that we have the money to repair it; the bad news is that the money is in your pockets."

If We Win?
The story is told that the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, recently convened an emergency session to figure out a solution for the devastated Israeli economy.

One brilliant minister said, "Let's declare war on the U.S., and then, in the wake of the utter destruction America will bring upon us, we will receive billions of dollars for reconstruction, like Germany and Japan.
"Sounds great," responded another member of the Knesset. "One problem: What will we do if we win the war?"

Twelve Jews on a Mission
This week's portion, Shlach, tells the story of 12 men who were dispatched by Moses from the desert to go and survey the Land of Israel and its inhabitants. The purpose of their journey was to prepare the Jewish people for the subsequent conquest and settlement of the Land.[1]

Upon discharging the spies on their mission, Moses presented them with a list of questions they needed to answer. "See the Land," Moses said to them. "How is it? And the nations that dwell in it—are they strong or weak? Are they few or numerous? And how is the land in which they dwell—is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they dwell—are they open or are they fortified?"

When the 12 spies returned from their 40-day tour of Israel they presented to the people a report of their findings.

"We arrived at the Land to which you sent us," the spies said, "and indeed it flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit. But the people that dwells in the land is powerful, the cities are greatly fortified and we also saw the offspring of the giant.

"We cannot ascend to that people for it is too strong for us," the spies proclaimed.

The report that the spies brought back demoralized the Jewish nation and drained it from the motivation to enter the Land. As a result, the spies were severely punished and the entire generation ultimately died in the desert, never making it into the Land. Only 39 years later, in the year 1276 B.C.E., did the children and grandchildren of this generation cross the borders of Israel and settle the Promised Land.

Kill the Messenger?
One of the many questions raised by biblical commentators [2] concerns the reason for the spies receiving punishment. Moses gave them a detailed list of questions about the Land; he instructed them to make their own observations as to what will await the people upon their arrival.

This is exactly what the spies did. They came back with an answer to all of Moses' questions and reported what they perceived to be the reality of the situation. If Moses expected them to cover up their observations -- that the Land was inhabited by mighty men and its cities were greatly fortified -- he should have never sent them in the first place!

Why were the men faulted for relating what they had seen?

Introducing Paralysis
The answer is that if the spies had merely related to the people the reality of the situation as they saw it, everything would have been fine. But they did more than that. They used the difficulties they observed as an incentive to introduce the option of surrender and capitulation in the face of crisis.

Had the spies returned and said, "Hey guys, we have seen a mighty people and well-protected cities in the Land, so now we need to devise an effective strategy of how to go about our challenging mission," they would have fulfilled their task splendidly. The moment they responded to the obstacles by saying "We cannot do it anymore," they swayed an entire people to abandon their G-d-given destiny.

The spies are condemned in Jewish tradition for substituting the "how will we do it" with the "can we do it?"

Conquering Your Darkness
Each of us has a domain in our life that needs to be conquered, a terrain that needs to be transformed into a "holy land." Some of us need to battle fear, temptation, addiction, or shame. Since the challenges that lay in recovery's path are at times frightening, we are naturally tempted to believe that we are incapable of overcoming our darkness and we thus surrender to our demons.

Though this feeling is understandable, it is a sad mistake that must be fought tenaciously, for it robs us of the opportunity to liberate our souls and arrive at our personal "Promised Land."

The option of resignation compels us to remain stuck for the rest of our lives in a barren desert made up of shame, insecurity and weakness.

The question ought never to be, "Can I do it?" The resources to repair the hole in our personal roof are always present. Every problem can be dealt with. The only legitimate question is, "How do I do it?"[3]

To see the footnotes, click here


Anonymous said...

This was a lovely read.
I smiled at the signon the side, as I totaly agree with whoever it was that wrote it:

but sometimes several days attack me at all at once,

Moshe said...

Torah has 70 interpretations. And here is the one. (from Rabbi Eli Mansour)

Parashat Shelah
In this parsha in the story of meraglim, Torah gives us some laws.
1st law is Yain: How much yain does each korban requires and next parsha right after that talks about teruma. Person makes Challa, he has to take teruma and give it to a kohen. So mefarshim wants to know what the connection of spies and right after that the law of teruma.
So the explanation is like this: Pasuk says go drink your yain with happiness and eat your bread besimha, because G-d accepted your prayers. At the end of Kippur we say that, go eat.
And Midrash said because of those two mitsvot you will enter EY. Why meraglim gave bad report. We have to realize those meraglim were great tsadikim. When they were in midbar, they ate Man. The Man was very very special food. This was the bread that angel ate. It was spiritual food, The Gemara said no waste was from that food. So, meraglim said how can we leave that food and go to EY and have regular food. They were on a very high level. So what is the claim against them.
Hakadosh Baruhu says: You can make from the food holly, if you take a piece of bread and before you take it you take a challa, and you give to a kohen, so this bread becomes kodesh.
That means you not only have lehem minashammaim, but you can have lehem minhaaeretz and make it lehem minashammaim. G-d says I want you to turn earth to a heaven. That is a job a man turn physical into a spiritual. The Man was coming from the Shammaim, the kedusha was going down to the earth, and the goal is to return that kedusha from the earth to the Shammaim. Meraglim tought they doing right having the Man and refusing regular foods.
When we eat bread, it is a danger , because the food is gashmi, Chazon Ish says that food is avi avot a tuma. But we need food to survive, so Torah said speak divrei Torah, it is like you elevating bad out of food and that food has good component, saying divrei torah is like having food like Man.
Original sin of Adam aRishon was eating from the tree. When he ate he got bad from that tree into him, which is yetzer hara. Every food has good and bad in it, and if we don’t say divrei Torah at the table it is like we are doing the same sin like Adam arishon did. The yetzer hara don’t want to say us divrei Torah like it says the time of eating - the time of war, because it wants to get inside of us.
We know that Yehoshua was successor of Moshe, and because he was very diligent student - Moshe add YA to Hoshea name. Why Yud Key? G-d created the worlds with Yud Key, Olam Haba He created with Yud, and Olam Haze with He. What what the claim of meraglim? They want to stay in the midbar. Midbar is Olam Haba (they have Man, everyhting is perfect there), and that was their Avon, they want Man all day long, but G-d says it is not the purpose of life. He said I need you to live in Olam Haze. Moshe Rabeinu said that goal is not Yud, is Yud Key. That was the braha to Yehoshua adding Yud Key, that he will conquer two worlds and Yehoshua tried to explain them that it is also physical interaction going to EY for the tikkun to make. And that is why after parsha of Meraglim is parsha of Challa, to teach us how to make bread holly, is to take physical and turn into spiritual.

Shabbat Shaolm

Anonymous said...

Moshe, thank you for this posting. Every day, looking to do what is right. Very good teaching. Devorah, thank you for your website. So excellent. angela