Next time you see the glass half empty, remember that it is also half full. And it can even be refilled. Life is what you make of it.
This week’s Torah portion is “Shlach” (Numbers 13:1-15:41), which deals with the episode of the spies, sent by Moses, to check out the Land of Israel prior to the Jewish people’s arrival there.
Twelve individuals, one from each tribe, were sent to explore the Promised Land. They were to report back to Moses with all the relevant details needed for military conquest: population, maps, cities, fortifications, produce and more.
Unfortunately, the spies – with the exception of Joshua and Kaleb – came back with a very negative report. Even more unfortunate was the fact that the nation despaired of ever being able to conquer the land and decided they would never want to go there.
Can you imagine? The people believed the report of the 10 evil spies over the word of God who said that the Land of Israel is paradise!
God was furious with the nation’s reaction to the spies’ report and decreed that instead of a short journey to the Promised Land, they would wander in the desert for 40 years. In fact, no one from the generation of slavery (with the exception of Joshua and Kaleb) merited to enter the Land. The punishment of four decades in the dessert was to ensure that only the next generation could enter.
One report that particularly frightened the people was that the land “devours its inhabitants.” The background to this comment is that the spies saw funeral processions wherever they went. Hence, they came to the conclusion that there must be something about the Land of Israel that causes people to perish at alarming rates.
The spies weren’t lying. Everything the spies reported was true. Yes, there really was a far greater than average number of funerals taking place. The problem with their conclusion, however, was that they perceived the funerals as only negative. They didn’t realize what was really happening! They didn’t see the Divine hand! The commentators explain that God had arranged for there to be many funerals during the spies’ visit so that the locals would be preoccupied with their dead and not catch on to the scheme. God was doing them a favor and they couldn’t see it.
From here we see that a person sees what he wants to see, hears what he wants to hear, and even interprets events in the most convenient way. This is why the spies were evil. They choose to see the negative because they actually preferred to remain in the dessert. Therefore, they twisted everything they experienced so that the people would also want to stay.
Two people can see the exact same thing but draw entirely different conclusions. So the next time you see the glass half empty, remember that it is also half full. And it can even be refilled. Life is what you make of it.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on the week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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