As we pray at the Western Wall and gaze up at the Temple Mount, we cannot help but wonder why there is no Holy Temple today. Does it have anything to do with the slanderous report of the spies in the times of Moses?
Although we cannot claim to understand the ways of God or even attempt to do so, we do know that the day set aside for the destruction of both Temples, the 9th of Av, had its roots in the times of the Jewish people’s first journey to the Land of Israel.
Tisha b’Av – the ninth day of Av, the day of destruction of the Holy Temple – was destined for tragedy when the Jewish people accepted the slanderous “report of horrors” from the delegation of spies. But it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
The Torah portion called Shlach (Numbers 13:1 – 15:41), Hebrew for the command to send, tells the story of perhaps the most tragic and failed mission of the Jewish People in their history. Ignoring God’s promise that the Jews would successfully conquer and inherit the Land of Israel, a delegation of 12 dignitaries, representing each of the tribes, was sent out by Moses to see for themselves what Israel was really all about.
While two of the “spies” (Joshua and Calev) trusted God’s judgment and came back with a favorable report, the other 10 frantically reported that the Land “consumes its inhabitants.” The People of Israel accepted their lies and openly rejected the Land of Israel. As a result, hundreds of thousands were doomed to die in the desert, while the next generation would inherit the Land.
But the real tragedy was that the mission was sent out at all. Worse than the slander about the Land was the lack of emunah (faith) in the word of God. Does God not know better than we? If He said that the Jewish nation would thrive in the Land of Israel, what other assurances did they need?
When the Jews heard the slanderous report, they cried and cried. The great commentator Rashi informs us that as the Jews cried, God was saying, “Today you are crying for no good reason, but in the future I will give you a reason to cry on this day.” That day, of course, was the 9th of Av, the day that both Temples were destroyed and a myriad of other Jewish tragedies, some even in recent times.
Why are we crying for the destruction of the Temple 2000 years ago?
Perhaps the answer is that we have not yet fully rejected the spies’ report.
Does the Jewish nation today have complete faith that it will thrive in the Land of Israel? Do we fully embrace God’s promise that our destiny is to settle and build up this Land without fear of failure? Do we truly believe that the ultimate success of the People of Israel can only be in the Land of Israel?
I dare to say that the Jewish People must answer this question today: Are we still living with the spies in our midst?
The Jewish People – yes, ALL of the Jewish People, must recognize that our collective success as a nation is dependent upon our faith. If we trust in God and believe that we will be successful in our Land, then we WILL be! And if we do not (God forbid), then we will continue to “live with the spies.”
In so many ways, God has made it easier for Jews to return home. We have a beautiful, independent, economically thriving state. We have made the desert bloom. With the internet, it is now possible for some to work abroad while living at home – in our homeland. In the modern age, the world has become much smaller. Thank God, Israel today, under Jewish sovereignty, is a very prosperous nation. What would the spies of yesteryear say today? But more important, what are the spies of today saying?
If you are a Jew living abroad, what are YOU saying about the Land when you visit? Are you ready to join your nation in your homeland? Do you have compete faith that God means what He says? Could it be that we are still living with some of those spies mentioned in the Bible?
As Jews, we must reverse the terrible tragedy of the spies and help to bring the entire Jewish Nation back to its eternal homeland – the Land of Israel.
Only then can we truly say that we are no longer living with the spies.
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Written by: United with Israel Staff