Torah Fax

Friday, June 24, 2005 - 17 Sivan, 5765
Torah Reading: Shlach (Numbers 13:1 - 15:41)
Candle Lighting time: 8:13 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:22
Pirkei Avot: Chap. 2
An Imaginary Line In The Sand
Our Parshah, Shlach, tells the well-known story of the Spies. On what was supposed to be the eve of the Jews' entrance into the Land of Israel, Moses sent 12 spies to investigate the Land and report back to him. Sadly, 10 of the spies (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) brought back a terrible report. They said that Israel was a terrible place, full of well fortified cities and mighty warriors. What was even worse, the Jews believed all of the evil things the spies said about Israel and lost any desire to go there. G‑d punished the nation for lacking faith in Him and decreed that they would have to stay in the desert for 40 years before the next generation would finally be led to Israel.
One of the points the spies attempted to make was that the Canaanites were so mighty, they were stronger "Mimenu." The literal translation of this word means "than us," implying that the Canaanites were stronger than the Jewish nation. Rashi notes that this word can also be translated as "than Him," implying that G‑d Himself was not able to conquer the inhabitants of Israel.
Before we are distracted by the apparent blasphemy of this statement, we must ask the obvious question. The Jews had just experienced the greatest miracles wrought by G‑d, in Egypt and at the Red Sea. In addition, in case one might think that their memories were short and that the Jewish people didn't have a clear recollection of those remarkable events (not to mention the great experience of Sinai), the Jews received the miraculous Manna from heaven every day! Indeed, on the very morning of the spies' report, the Jews ate the Manna - so how could they possibly have a doubt about G‑d's ability to conquer the inhabitants of the Land of Israel?
Chassidic thought explains that the spies were actually sophisticated, spiritual people. In fact, they were handpicked by Moses as representatives of the Jewish people - certainly Moses would only choose the highest caliber individuals for such a mission. The spies had no doubt about G‑d's abilities. But the spies also knew that G‑d's desire was to bring the holiness of Torah into the laws of nature. They knew that the very purpose of going to Israel was to leave the embryo-like, spiritual state of the desert - where the sole occupation was to learn Torah and there were no worldly distractions - and begin to work with the physical world, tilling the soil and the like.
The spies mistakenly argued that, when dealing with the natural order of things, G‑d himself is "forced" or willfully decides to deal with the world solely within the limitations of nature. Indeed, Chassidic thought teaches that this was the reason that the spies were sent to Israel to begin with. If G‑d were to miraculously take over the Land of Israel, the Jews could have moved into Israel in some supernatural way, without ever having to wage war. Since, however, it was G‑d's will to begin living in Israel within the confines of nature - and bring Torah down to that level - it was necessary to conquer Israel in the natural way, through warfare. As a prerequisite to waging war, it is common practice to send spies to investigate the enemy encampment and find their strong and weak points. The spies then drew the obvious (though incorrect) conclusion: in a natural world, where G‑d's supernatural powers are "turned off," the Jews haven't a chance of conquering the Land.
The spies thus drew a philosophical line: in the desert, where Jewish life was not subject to the laws of nature, they had total faith in G‑d's ability to perform miracles. Indeed, their day-to-day life depended on the miracle of the Manna for their very sustenance. But, once that line would be crossed by the Jews' going into Israel; once they would begin drawing Torah down into the framework of nature by doing all of the agricultural Mitzvahs connected with farming and building the physical Temple in Jerusalem - there the spies felt, G‑d's supernatural providence would no longer be present.
One possible lesson for our times is that should not mistakenly relegate G‑d to the spiritual domain, forgetting that He is present in every aspect of our lives. Our involvement with Judaism must be as strong during the weekdays as it is on Shabbat. This is one of the purposes of Moshiach, to show how the worldly is no less G‑dly than the spiritual. Moshiach will show that that not only can the supernatural and the natural coexist, they are inseparable..
Moshiach Matters
The actual date of the Messianic redemption is a guarded mystery unknown to man. It will happen "in its time," predetermined from the beginning of creation. Every generation has a special "time" of its own, for, as stated, Moshiach is alive and present in every generation, albeit concealed. He is ready to be revealed at a moment's notice. In the course of history prior to "its time" there are especially auspicious times when it is easier to effect his coming. To take advantage of these, to hasten the redemption, that depends completely on us. (From Mashiach, by Rabbi J. I. Schochet)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit
© 2001- 2005 Chabad of the West Side