Torah Fax
Friday, June 27, 2003 - 27 Sivan, 5763

Mind Your Business

The Land of Israel is the theme of this week's parsha. The parsha begins with how Moses, at the behest of the Jewish people, sent 12 spies to scout out the Land. The balance of the parsha deals with how the spies returned with a slanderous report about the Promised Land that was destined for the people of Israel.

One of the points made by our Sages is that the Land of Israel was "tailor made" for the Jewish people. Indeed, this land had already been given to them hundreds of years before they actually conquered it. At the "Covenant between the Parts," Abraham was promised this land for his children. This promise was then repeated to Isaac, and then again, even more forcefully, to Jacob, who was renamed Israel.
In light of all this, it would have been expected that G‑d would refer to this land with its proper and ideal name: the Land of Israel. Yet at the very beginning of this week's parsha, the Torah states: "And G‑d spoke to Moses saying: Send spies to scout the land of Canaan."  Of all names, G‑d chose to refer to this exalted land by the name of one of the seven tribes that inhabited the land before the Jews took possession of it. It is noteworthy that Canaan in particular was known for its extreme immorality. Many times the Torah itself states how the Canaanite tribe reached the very nadir of depravity.
Why then did G‑d choose to refer to this land as the "Land of Canaan?" Also, there were six other tribes that inhabited the land. Why focus only on Canaan?
The answer lies in understanding the use of the word Canaan elsewhere in the Torah. In the Book of Genesis (and elsewhere in the Bible) the word Canaan actually is used to mean a merchant. To better understand the relationship of a merchant to the Promised Land, a parable has been cited by the great nineteenth century sage, the Chatam Sofer:
A man who failed at everything, decided to travel to a remote region to find diamonds there. Sure enough, after many arduous months of travel, he finally reached the paradise he had sought. Indeed, it was easier than he could have ever imagined. The streets were virtually lined with diamonds, and all it took was the effort to stoop down and pick them up. This he did, and filled several wagons with these precious jewels.  When he got hungry and sought to purchase some food, he soon realized that even a cup of milk cost several hundred diamonds.  "Wow," he though to himself. "If one cup of milk is worth hundreds of diamonds, why bring wagon loads of diamonds home, if I could just bring home a few gallons of milk." Needless to say, when he returned with his "treasure," he quickly realized that he had exchanged priceless treasures for something of no value whatsoever.  This hapless "merchant" failed in his business venture, because he couldn't appreciate the difference between a real treasure and a transient one.
Analogously, there are treasures that can be found in great abundance in our life experience. These are the moments spent in Torah study, performance of a Mitzvah or heartfelt prayer. Out of necessity, however, we must devote much of our time to earn a living and other worldly pursuits. We thus trade in our diamonds for a cup of milk. We take time away from our precious pursuits to earn money, build a house, clothe ourselves and our families, pay taxes and all the other mundane activities, just so we have a few quality moments with our family, our community and our G‑d. However, we should never make the foolish error that the "merchant" made by thinking that the real treasure is the cup of milk, while the diamonds are merely a means to get the milk. It is, of course, the reverse. The diamonds can only be procured by staying alive and drinking the milk. A good merchant-Canaanite, is one who knows what is primary and what he needs to do to get it.
This, then is what G‑d had in mind when He told the spies to scout the Land of Canaan (read the "land of merchants"):  "By all means, get involved in the pursuit of material wealth. You may even spend most of your day on these matters. But, don't emulate the foolish merchant who then imagined that the real treasure was the milk and who threw away the diamonds. Scout the land, search for the inner meaning of all of the physical pursuits that you are involved with and realize that they are all means to the end of  procuring the real treasure-the diamonds."
We are presently on the verge of discovering the greatest treasure of all times; the ultimate treasure. Moshiach's coming will usher in an age where all the genuine treasures of the world, including the diamonds embedded within our souls, will be revealed to us. Our way of preparing for this is by rearranging our priorities in life and trading in the "milk" for the "diamonds" and not the other way around.

Moshiach Matters

Continued from last week - This suggests that Maimonides sees the Messianic age as consisting of two eras. In the first era, immediately following the coming of the Messiah, the world will remain in its natural state. The Messiah will not be accepted based on whether or not he performs supernatural feats, but based on whether or not he brings peace to the world, gathers the Jews to the Land of Israel, and rebuilds the Holy Temple. He will change the natural world as we know it into a place that lends itself to the complete fulfillment of the Torah and its precepts. In a later era, the era of the resurrection of the dead, the nature of the world will indeed change. Only then will all the supernatural phenomena prophesied in the Bible and by our sages occur.  - from

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