Torah Fax
Friday, June 22, 2007 - 6 Tammuz, 5767

Torah Reading: Chukat (Numbers 19:1 - 22:1)
Candle Lighting: 8:12 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:22 PM
Pirkei Avot Chapter 5 

Beyond and Above

At the end of this week's parsha, after the Torah relates that the Jewish nation conquered territory on the east bank of the Jordan which would ultimately be allocated to the tribes of Gad and Rueben as well as half of the tribe of Menasheh, the Torah tells us that Moses sent spies to scout out a location called Yaazer. These spies, the Torah continues, captured the villages of that area.


Rashi comments that their conquering of the Yaazer area was a reaction to the story of the original spies sent by Moses to investigate the land of Canaan and who returned with a negative report. That tragic episode resulted in the entire generation being forced to wander through the desert for forty years. According to Rashi, these new spies said: "We will not do as the first spies, we are confidant that we can wage war because of the power of Moses' prayer."


In other words, these spies not only scouted the Yaazer area to see if and how it could be conquered, they actually took the initiative to conquer the area themselves!


This prompts the following question: The original spies erred as a result of the liberty they took in going beyond the  parameters of their mission. Moses instructed them to simply report on the land and its inhabitants. He did not ask them to draw any conclusions as to whether the Jewish people ought to conquer the land or not. Yet the spies decided to campaign against the conquest of Canaan. Had they simply reported all of what they had seen, even if some of it would appear negative, it would not have evoked such negative emotion and all the negative consequences would have been avoided.


If so, the question has been asked, why did these new spies, who were certainly well aware of their predecessors' error, repeat the same mistake of adding on to the mission? Moses did not instruct them to conquer the land of Yaazer, but merely to scout it. Yet they seemed to have added on to his directive by conquering it as well.


The Rebbe answers the question by referring to a basic principle associated with the process of Teshuvah (repentance or return). After a person strays and moves in the wrong direction and they realize their error, it does not suffice to simply return to the proper path. One must go to the opposite extreme as a way of balancing his or her life. This concept is discussed at length by the Rambam.


While the first spies overstepped their mission in a negative way, the second spies sought to exceed their mission in a positive way. The first spies doubted Moses' instructions to them to scout the land as a preparation for their conquest of it. Their sin derived from their lack of faith in Moses who communicated G‑d's directive to the Jewish people to conquer the land.


The second set of spies thus exceeded their mission and conquered that which they were not expressly instructed to do precisely because they believed in Moses' "connections." And they took this belief to its logical conclusion: Let us do what we have to do to make the land that we were instructed to scout our land.


There are several lessons that can be derived from this analysis:


First, from this episode we see that there is a need to be connected to Moses or the spiritual leader of each and every generation and be confident in his ability to pray for our success in doing the right thing.


This dependence on Moses' prayer does not contradict Judaism's insistence that we make no intermediaries between ourselves and G‑d. The definition of an illicit intermediary is someone who causes us to be separated from G‑d, not someone who enhances our relationship with Him. Moreover, the Jewish people have been compared to the human body. A healthy human body is one where all of its organs and limbs work in concert because their connection to the brain is intact. Similarly, the Jewish nation is spiritually healthy when all of us are united under the direction of our head; its Moses.


However, notwithstanding their confidence in Moses' prayer, they did not rely on his prayer alone. They took action to conquer Yaazer. Relying on Moses does not exempt us from our own efforts. Moreover, not only do we not sit back and wait for Moses to secure G‑d's help for us, we also go beyond that which we were expressly commanded.


In our generation we are privileged to have the Rebbe as our Moses, whose inspiration and guidance we continue to benefit from. Nevertheless, we can still confident of his prayers that we will succeed in "conquering" the remaining areas of life that are in need of liberation.



The Rebbe's instruction to us is to fight against the darkness of exile, where our spiritual and physical lives are compromised, by bringing more light into the world. The Rebbe's constant prayer was for Moshiach to come and liberate the Jewish people and the entire world from exile and its suffering.  We are confident that the Rebbe's prayerful wish and demand for Redemption will spur us to action and will enable us to conquer the remaining vestiges of exile and transform it into Redemption imminently.        


Moshiach Matters       

Rousing Fellow Jews to Repentance - In this era, the time of the approaching footsteps of Mashiach, it is the duty of every Jew to be concerned with the welfare of his fellow, old or young, and to rouse him to teshuvah.
Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. II, p. 388
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit


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