A Lesson Still Not Learned!


HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva


When one dwells on the apparently harsh punishment meted out to the ten spies and to the entire congregation, one wonders: Does the punishment really fit the crime? Our Rabbis teach us that the men who brought forth the evil report about the Land died in a plague before Hashem. Rashi explains that the plague was measure-for-measure; they sinned with their tongue, and so their punishment was that their tongues stretched to their navels and worms came out of their tongues and entered their navels.

The congregation was also punished harshly by being totally killed off from the age of twenty and up. The entire generation wiped out, and only because of the great Chilul Hashem that it would have caused if they were to be killed off all at once (what would Egypt say?), was the punishment spread out over a forty-year period.

Even more puzzling is that we find in last week's parsha that when Miriam spoke lashon hara - evil talk - about Moses, she was stricken with tzara'at and had to be removed from the camp for a period of only seven days. After that she returned to her former position as one of our seven prophets that the Jewish people had in our history. If so, why, because of the spies, were they and the entire congregation so severely punished?

The answer is just as relevant today for us as it was back then for the spies, and unfortunately, just as deadly. Firstly, the spies were men of little faith. Hashem had promised the Jewish people that He would bring them into a good Land, being able to remove the nations that lived here. They, though, did not believe that G-d had the capability to conquer the nations that lived here. To the spies, the nations living in the Land seemed stronger that Hashem Himself.

Being the Torah giants of their time, what we would call today the "Gedolei Hador", they gave a psak - a Torah judgment - that the danger to life outweighs the commandment to conquer the Land.

Little did it concern them that he who dwells outside the Land of Israel, is as if he worships idols; little did it concern them that over 300 times in the Torah, G-d states that He is giving this Land to the Jewish people; little did it concern them that over 300 of the commandments can only be done in the Land of Israel, that G-d's entire blueprint for the Jews and humanity was to have the Jews enter into their Land right away and set up a G-dly kingdom in this world.

And so they, the leaders of the Jewish people - the Gedolim of their time - fell, and took all of us with them. Their only wish was to return to the fleshpots of Egypt - what they knew as the "Goldene Medina". This, though, was not to be, because of their lack of faith in Hashem - that He could not bring them into the Land. A Land that they thought was dangerous, a Land in which they thought they could not make a living. So they were punished, and punished severely!

And the Torah wears sackcloth, for the sin of the spies runs after us and overtakes us and is still not corrected. In the time of Ezra, when the call came out to return to the Holy Land, we find that the great majority of the Jewish people had all kinds of reasons for not coming home. Too dangerous, cannot make a living, waiting for Messiah, who is this Cyrus, king of Persia, anyway, that he should be telling us to come back home - he isnot even Jewish, they're not religious enough for us - and on and on it went. Our Rabbis, though, tell us that because the Jewish people did not come back to their land en masse, G-d's Divine Presence also did not come back, paving the way for the destruction of the Second Temple. Resh Lakish, a leading Talmudic rabbi, yelled out in anguish over this and said: G-d, how I hate them, for they could have brought the Redemption to the Jewish people if they would have come home!

And what can we say today? Why do we not heed the call? Can anyone look over the past 60 years of history and not see the hand of Hashem bringing His people home? Is the G-d of Israel not great enough to give us a livelihood also over here? Sure, there are problems, but with a influx of three, four or five million good Jews into the Land we would be able to fix all the problems, ensuring that there would be no more expulsions like the one from Gush Katif. What will we answer our Maker on our Judgment Day, when we are called into account? Will we be able to say that our hands have not shed this blood?

With love of Israel,

Levi Chazen

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