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Living Torah

The reading for this week demonstrates that a positive attitude is of paramount importance not only to success in this world, but to spiritual growth as well. 

living torah

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Shlach (Numbers 13:1-15:41) and it is probably the favorite portion of the entire Torah here at United with Israel! That’s because this week’s reading discusses the spies who were sent to check out the Land of Israel and to report back on what they saw. It is the first “post-Exodus” Torah reading that concentrates heavily on the imminent entry into the Land of Israel and the events leading up to it.

Unfortunately, however, the spies blew it. They were sent to bring back a report on the Land of Israel and decided to corrupt what they saw and deliver a very negative report instead. Their report sowed fear in the people and caused the nation to believe that the land was unconquerable.

Fear, anger, despair, confusion and rebellion prevailed. Actually two out of the 12 spies were “good guys” but their favorable report was rejected in favor of the evil report of the majority. God was angry about the reaction to the spies’ report and decreed that the Israelites would wander the desert for 40 years, until all the adults of the generation of the Exodus will have passed on.

One spy claimed that the land of Israel was “a land that devours its inhabitants.” The Talmud explains that the source for this statement was that wherever the spies went, there seemed to be a funeral taking place. As such, they decided that there was something about the Land of Israel that causes people to die.

Could it be true?

Living Torah

Painting of Moses and the spies by Giovanni Lanfranco.

Of course not! Not anywhere! There is no such thing as any geographical location inherently causing mass death!

The lesson: People see what they want to see, and they believe what they want to believe. Two people can see the exact same thing and then give entirely different reports of their experiences.

The evil spies that brought back the malicious report about the land probably had their script written before they even left! They went on their mission with preconceived notions and a selfish agenda. We are told that the spies had been men of prominence. While still in the desert, however, they knew that once the Jewish people had entered the land, a new leadership would be chosen and they would be headed to retirement. Hence, they wanted to keep the people in the desert as long as possible in order to keep their positions.

Yes, there were funerals taking place wherever they went. Why? In order that the inhabitants of the land would be occupied with their mourning and not realize that they were there were 12 spies in the land. It was Divine providence and Divine assistance. Instead, the spies interpreted the event to suit their agenda and to scare the people away from the land.

Life in Israel is Amazing!

The spies had it all planned out. With their negative attitude, egotistical considerations and pessimistic perception on life, they were ready to sabotage the aliyah (move to the Holy Land) of the nation.

What an important message for life: Attitude and outlook is everything. Always remember that the cup is half full, not half empty.

And boy, were the spies wrong! Life in Israel is amazing! There is nowhere that I would rather be. If you’re reading this Torah message, then you, too,  belong here. Pack your bags and come home!