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One who performs a “mitzvah mission” exclusively because it is right and not for ulterior motives, such as honor and recognition, is someone to be admired. 

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Shlach (Numbers 13:1–15:41) and in it we read about how Moses sent spies to check out the Land of Israel in preparation for the nation’s arrival. Moses tells the spies to gather intelligence on a number of different details.

As is generally well known (which we’ve also discussed in previous articles), Moses’ spies blew it big time (and I don’t mean a shofar), and their slander of the land of Israel cost the Jewish people 40 years of wandering in the dessert.

However, there is a lesser-known, parallel spy story in Scripture that ended much better: The story of Joshua’s spies, which will be read in the synagogue this week as part of the “Haftarah,” the reading from the prophets, which takes place immediately after the Torah reading every Shabbat morning.

Joshua sent Pinchas and Kaleb to check out the land of Israel (primarily Jericho) in preparation for the Jewish invasion. They were good spies who fulfilled their mission faithfully. Commenting on their mission, the Midrash says that God loves people such as Pinchas and Kaleb who faithfully fulfill their “mitzva missions” with dedication. Hence, Kalev and Pinchas are the role models of what a faithful emissary is supposed to be.

It is explained that God loves faithful agents who are sent on a “mitzvah mission” because a true “mitzva agent” (like Kaleb and Pinchas) carries out his or her duties quietly and with humility. One who performs a mitzvah, or good deed, exclusively because it is a mitzva and not for ulterior motives, such as honor and recognition, is someone to be admired.

This is exactly how Pinchas and Kaleb were. They weren’t just simple folk! They were essentially colleagues of Moses! They were possibly even greater, and certainly older, than Joshua, who sent them on their mission! Joshua was the leader, and they accepted it. They didn’t tell Joshua to go find a more junior executive. None of that.

Beloved in God’s Eye

Kaleb and Pinchas faithfully accepted the job that was requested of them. Pinchas and Kaleb had no ego.

These are the type of people we should look up to, these are the type of people we should emulate. When it comes to performing mitzvot, or good deeds, whether it is something for the benefit of one’s community, workplace or family, don’t hesitate to take the menial jobs. Don’t think twice if you are asked to take out the garbage or clean up the coffee room. Don’t suggest that a more junior staffer or member be given the job instead.

It may be true that you’re much higher up on the totem pole, but when it comes to chipping in for the benefit of others, take the Kaleb and Pinchas route. Remember, you are not merely working for the betterment of your surrounding or community. You’re also working to become more beloved in God’s eye!

For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin, click on the links below:

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-how-appearances-can-be-deceiving/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-with-the-spies/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/watch-its-all-a-matter-of-perspective/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-life-is-what-you-make-of-it/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-combining-the-physical-with-the-spiritual/

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