This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shlach (5760)
Once there was a poor man named Avraham. He, and his wife and six children lived a meager life in a small wooden hut at the end of the road. Often there was no more than bread and tea to eat, but there was always room at his table and in his heart for guests.
One day a very holy looking Jew appeared at his door and asked if he could
enter. “Avraham,” the guest said, “ you don’t know me but I know you. Your kindness is remarkable and I am going to give you a blessing for wealth… Just don’t let it go to your head. Keep your heart open to the poor and unfortunate.
Avraham promised, and the mysterious man blessed him and left. A week later Avraham found a box filled with golden coins. He invested the money made a lot of right decisions and a month later found himself am rich man surrounded by other wealthy men. He bought out factories, advised investors purchased a big mansion for himself… In short, in a half a year he was a big wheel and completely forgot his promise to worry for the unfortunate, he was simply too busy.
After a year of this, the holy Jew reappeared, entered the mansion without knocking and walked into Avraham’s study. Avraham looked up at the intruder and when he realized whom it was, he stood up, forced a huge smile and opened his arms in feigned joy. “Ahh Rabbi! What a pleasure to see you! What a wonderful surprise! How happy I am!!!” (Avraham, now a businessman, learned to think quickly in all situations.)
“Come let me show you around my house. It’s really all yours, ha ha! Don’t think I’ve forgotten. I’ve been very busy though, and you know…” Theb Rabbi was walking through the rooms examining everything and Avraham was trying to keep up with him, “ I’m not used to all this money yet, ha ha! But as soon as things get settled down I’m… Uh, excuse me Rabbi but what are you doing to that mirror? It’s a real beauty isn’t it! I had it sent specially from France. Why are you scraping off the silver on the back?!”
The Rabbi paid no attention, he had a little pocketknife and he was scraping at the back of the huge mirror that blocked Avraham’s front window. When he had scraped off a good sized patch he looked at Avraham pointed to the good part of the mirror and said,
“Look here Avraham. What do you see?”.
Avraham looked and answered, “Why I see myself Rabbi”.
“And what do you see over here where I scraped off?” The Rabbi asked.
“Well Rabbi, I mean… I used to see my reflection but well now ehh…well…you scraped off that coating on the back…well…heh heh.”
“Please Avraham” the Rabbi interrupted, “I asked you to tell me what you DO see.”
Avraham cleared his throat and looked again at the scratched mirror, “All right…Through the mirror I see the front window… well… I actually see though the front window, the street.”
“And who do you see in the street? Tell me everything you see.”
“Well I see Zalman the water carrier and Sara the widow with a few of her children, and Shlomo the beggar and some of the boys from the yeshiva, they don’t look so good either.”
The Rebbe put his hand over the mirror, to show that the lesson was over,
and waited for Avraham to look him in the eyes.
“You see Avraham… Because of a little covering of silver … all you see is yourself.”
That was what happened in this week’s section. Moshe sent out an expeditionary force of important, righteous men to spy out Canaan in order to encourage the Jews to conquer it.
But instead they did the exact opposite! They dissuaded the entire Jewish Nation from even considering the idea!!!
What happened? What went wrong?
They knew that G-d was the King of the World. They saw with their OWN EYES how He decimated Egypt and provided for millions of people in a barren desert. Why were they afraid?
Even more…how could they go against G-d’s express desire and refuse to enter the ‘Promised Land’… the land that was the core of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people?!
One answer is … they wanted to learn Torah!
Nothing can compare to learning Torah. In fact the entire world was created for the Torah!!
And in the desert G-d helped them to learn uninterruptedly. He miraculously provided all their needs and removed all their worries in order that they learn Torah.
On the other hand, they knew that in Israel awaited them thousands of distractions: battles, hard work, difficulties etc. they began to think selfishly.
After all, if a little coating of silver can make a person selfish, HOW MUCH MORE SO the Torah, which is worth much more than gold or silver!! (Psalms 119:14 &72)
The Rebbe explains in one of his first lectures that this mistaken attitude toward the Torah was caused by the spies. They ingeniously changed the perspective of the entire Jewish Nation with one clever trick:
They reversed the order of their report.
Moshe told them that when they returned they should FIRST tell the Jews about the inhabitants of Canaan, and THEN describe the land and its produce.
Moshe wanted to make G-d’s will the first priority of the Jewish people; to conquer the land no matter how fearsome its inhabitants. Then the bounty therein would be of secondary importance.
But the spies cleverly reversed it; they immediately praised the land, exhibited its huge fruits and explained how it flowed milk and honey… And then they told about its fierce, giant populace and well-fortified cities … a big risk to take just for a few fruits!
Like the unscratched mirror in our story; suddenly the Jews only saw only their own reflection. From their new ‘normal’ perspective it was clear that Moshe was wrong; G-d could not be so unreasonable to demand suicide. And they justified themselves by saying that they wanted to continue learning Torah in the desert (even though it says in that same Torah to always follow Moshe!).
Only two of the spies, Yhoshua bin Nun and Kalev ben Yefuneh, thought differently. They knew the only way to follow G-d ... is to follow Moshe unquestioningly.
Yehoshua’s secret was that Moshe blessed him by changing his name (from Hoshea) giving him the power to withstand this temptation. (Because Moshe knew that Yehoshua was to be the next leader and without a leader the Jewish people are like lost sheep.)
But Kalev had to do it himself. He was so afraid that he too would begin thinking logically like the others, that he went alone to Chevron and prayed for help at the gravesite of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (Rashi 13:22). And that is what saved him.
But it wasn’t so simple.
Rashi explains that he did not just pray… he prostrated himself; (his head at the same level as his feet) he completely surrendered himself, (even his logic)… to G-d’s will. (That is why he prayed by the ‘Fathers’ because they inherited to us this unquestioning surrender to G-d.)
So it is today, every generation has its Moshe.
[And every Chassid should believe that his Rebbe is it. (Sanhedren 98b)]
The Lubavitch Rebbe’s message is: “ Conquer the world with goodness. Make the entire world into Eretz Yisroel”.
The entire world and each human being in it is a potential storehouse of spiritual treasures; a ‘Holy Land’… but the Jews are the key to uncovering these treasures.
And only the Moshiach will wake them all up. Therefore the Rebbe wants everyone to “LEARN about Moshiach. And to DO everything possible to bring Moshiach NOW.”
In other words, we must be like the spies and learn about the ‘Land’, but unlike them we must not cling to the security of the ‘desert’ and be afraid to change.
WE CAN DO IT!!!! Each one of us CAN CHANGE THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!! One more good deed, good word, or even one good thought can tip the scales!
Like Yhoshua we already have the special blessing of Moshe.
All we need is to learn from Kalev; be brave, look at the world from Moshe’s eyes and soon we will all be dancing in the Promised Land together with MOSHIACH NOW!!!
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