The Courage to Break Through

Moshe Kempinski

” the complacency of the fools (Shalvat Kesillimi) shall cause them to perish” ( Proverbs 1:32)

Opportunities and possibilities surround and beckon us in our lives . Yet, usually we are too set in our ways, stuck in our expectations or so fearful of change, that we let these opportunities pass us by. This is true in our personal growth in our lives and is true as well in our corporate lives as a people.

The tragedy of the spies that Moshe sent to scout the land raises a very important question .The text tells us the following;

“Send out for yourself men ( Anashim) who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel. You shall send one man each for his father’s tribe; each one shall be a chieftain in their midst.” So Moses sent them from the desert of Paran by the word of the Lord. All of them were men of distinction ( Anashim) ; they were the heads of the children of Israel. ( Numbers 13:2-3)

Rashi on the words “All of them were men of distinction” explains the following;

“Whenever the word ANASHIM is used in Scripture, it denotes people of importance. At that time, they were virtuous. “( Midrash Tanchuma)

This being so ,these leaders chosen because of their virtuous character, should not have fallen into the sin of slandering G-d’s promised land. Yet it was their slander that brought about the destruction of a whole generation of Israelites and postponed the entry of the Jewish people for forty years. How can we understand this?

The Baal HaTanya asks what led the other ten spies who were clearly chosen because of their spiritual greatness, to fail. Why would men of such great spiritual awareness not want to physically enter the land of Israel. These men, he explains, had experienced the highest spiritual experiences that mortals can envision.

They experienced G-d’s great hand in Egypt and at the Red Sea and they heard the Divine voice at Mount Sinai.

They lived in the desert but they drank from the miraculous well of Miriam and ate of the manna from heaven and were protected in their voyage by the very clouds of Glory.

He explains that those experiences may have been part of the problem. Why would they want to leave all of that purely spiritual experience and lower themselves into a land where they would by necessity become involved with the physicality of reality. They believed that spirituality would best be separated from the physical. More importantly, they considered themselves unworthy of the task of elevating the physical into its spiritual purpose.

The Torah tells us that ” all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.” Our sages teach on that verse that this night was the 9th day of Av. Said G-d to them: You have wept without cause, therefore I will set aside this day for a weeping throughout the generations to come.(tractate Taanit 29b).The litany of disasters that occurred on the day of the ninth of Av (the day when the spies returned) is simply staggering. It was a failure in believing in their Divine destiny. Without a clarity of vision regarding the destiny of the Jewish people, they begin to flounder and fail.

The Gaon of Vilna, wrote that it is the “sin of the spies” that will plague the Jewish people throughout the generations until the last days. “Many will fall in this great sin of, ‘They despised the cherished Land.’ Also many guardians of the Torah will not know or understand that thy are caught in the ‘sin of the Spies”….(Kol HaTor, Ch.5)

It is that sin that leads our brothers and sisters in exile to talk of Berlin, Maghreb or Lakewood as the Jerusalem of the west. It is that lack of vision that keeps then chained to exile. It is that failure of insight that prolongs our wait for redemption on the “Peoplehood” level.

Furthermore it is that same sin that attempts to imprison each one of us in our own individual paths of growth and development. Hashem opens up opportunities and new gateways in our lives, and we tend to ignore or turn away. We would rather stay in the emotional stagnant places we have created and not take the leap into spiritual psychological and emotional turmoil of growth and possibility.

That is the challenge of our generation.

We need to muster the strength, faith and courage to break the stranglehold of the “sin of the Spies” in our personal and corporate lives .Only in this way can we truly lay down the groundwork for complete redemption to flourish .

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

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