Moshe Kempinski

When Moshe sends twelve men to spy out the land of Israel they come back with a confusing report.

On the one hand they begin with the following hopeful and positive words;

“…We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. ( Numbers 13:27)

Then we begin to hear the doubts and fears;

However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant. (ibid:28)

Yet these are the same people who saw G-d’s mighty hand in Egypt . They tasted of the bread from Heaven and ate of the meat that G-d sent their way. They drank from water that sprung forth out of rocks. It would seem obvious that a people who have experienced so much of Hashem’s active involvement would heartily agree with the powerful words of Caleb.

Caleb silenced the people to [hear about] Moshe, and he said, “We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.” (ibid:30)

Yet it is then that the spies reveal the source of their pain and their fear;

“But the men who went up with him said, “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we…. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes. (ibid: 31-33)

The problem was rooted in their self-perception “In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers “These words seem to touch a responsive chord in this people recently liberated from slavery.

G-d’s response is swift

However, as surely as I live, and as the glory of the Lord fills the earth… that all the people who perceived My glory, and the signs that I performed in Egypt and in the desert, yet they have tested me these ten times and not listened to My voice.. if they will see the Land that I swore to their fathers, and all who provoked Me will not see it.( Numbers 14:21-23)

Previously we also see this people complaining bitterly and meeting with similar painful results

“He named that place Tab’erah, for the fire of the Lord had burned among them there.( Numbers 11:3) and again ” He named that place Kivroth Hata’avah [Graves of Craving], for there they buried the people who craved.(ibid:34)

Why would the punishment be so clear and so final. Couldn’t some of their concerns be acknowledged and understood?

In all these cases the people were not punished because of their concerns and fears. Yet their fate was sealed because they let those concerns pervert their vision and distort their appreciation of the good that surrounded them.

Regrettably we all are aware of people who in any and all situations will focus on what is missing rather than on what exists. These are people who live in a state of cynicism, sadness and trepidation because they have distorted their vision and discernment. Such people are mired in a place of decay and stagnation. The people of Israel needed to grow in the midst of wilderness, trials and challenges. They needed to do that not only for their own sake but for the sake of the whole world,

When one loses the ability to see the blessings that surround us, then one only perceives curses and fear. It is not just a result, it is a state of mind.

We have been told by our sages the sin of the spies, the sin of cynical small-minded perception, will plague our people throughout human history.

It becomes the urgent mission of every one living in this land that still feels guided by the vision to share that awareness to all that surround us. As opposed to simply criticizing all those who feels as grasshoppers in their eyes we need to remind them of the miracles they themselves have been a part of and the great potential still ensconced in their souls

The source of our failures a people is when we lose the courage to be what we were meant to be. When we allow cynicism and despair to cloud the vision;

“Because you did not serve the LORD your G-d with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things ;( Deuteronomy 28:47)

The source of success are living up to the words of Caleb

“We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Leave a Comment