A Matter of Perspective
This week we read about the twelve spies who were sent to scout out the
Land of Canaan. Their mission of surveillance was meant to prepare the
Jewish nation so that the entry into their promised homeland be smooth and
virtually without surprises. Total trust in Hashem's Divine design should
have warranted no mortal meddling, but mortal prudence or perhaps
apprehension and skepticism prompted their desire to manage the situation
in their own way. And, as has been the case with the relationship between
Jews and their land from time immemorial, the results were disastrous. All
the spies, save the righteous Calev and Yehoshua, brought back tales of
woe, predictions of destruction, and assurances of defeat. The Jews were
quickly and simply swayed, and the buoyant expectancy of a gallant entry
into the land promised to our forefathers, quickly turned into a night of
bemoaning anticipated enduring misfortunes. That night, the 9th day of the
fifth month, became engraved in the annals of our history as a night of
weeping. What began as unwarranted wailing turned into a forever fateful
night the 9th of Av. From the saga of the spies to the destruction of two
Temples, to the signing of inquisition, to the outbreak of World War I, the
war to end all wars, the 9th of Av is a hallmark of Jewish misfortunes.
But if we analyze the complaints of the meraglim (spies), we find an
emerging pattern of skewed vision. They saw fruit so big and beautiful
that it had to be carried on a double pole. Yet they viewed it as an
indication of giant produce, indicative of the degree of food matter that
nourished their powerful and physically giant adversaries.
But not only the living species gave them conniptions. They brought forth
to the Children of Israel an evil report on the Land that they had spied
out, saying, "The Land through which we have passed, to spy it out, is a
land that devours its inhabitants! All the people that we saw in it were
huge! (Numbers 13:32).
Rashi explains the meaning of "a land that devours its inhabitants." The
meraglim complained, "In every place which we passed we found the
inhabitants burying their dead" They missed the point. In fact, Hashem
caused many deaths amongst them at that time, and so the Canaanites were
engaged in burying their dead. This proved beneficial for the spies,
because the giants were occupied with their mourning and paid no attention
to the spies.
How can an event that was providentially meant to be so beneficial, be
misconstrued as an omen of misfortune?
Back in the early 1950's a large shoe consortium with stores across the
United States and Canada, decided to take their business venture into the
emerging continent of Africa. They sent two of their salesman to explore
the prospects of business in the remote villages across the Dark Continent.
After just one week, they received a cable from the first salesman: "I am
returning at once. No hope for business. Nobody here wears shoes!"
They did not hear from the second salesman for four weeks. Then one day an
urgent cable arrived.
"Send 15,000 pairs of shoes at once! I have leased space in five
locations. Will open chain of stores. This place is filled with
opportunity. Nobody has shoes!"
The Steipler Gaon, Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Kanievsky, in his classic work on
chumash, Birchas Peretz explains that poor attitudes help forge opinions
that are diametric to the truth. The Talmud tells us that, "Man is led in
the path that he chooses to travel!"
Imagine. The spies see these giants wailing and weeping at massive funerals
day after day. They should have figured that this plague was an anomaly,
for if this was the norm, then the funerals would have become part of their
everyday existence, and hardly an event worthy of disrupting their normally
In fact, comments the Steipler, that in the times of Yehoshua, the two
spies who entered Canaan were immediately detected on the very day they
arrived, and they were hunted with a vengeance! Yet these twelve spies
remained unnoticed. But the spies did not look at the events with that view.
When people have sour opinions and want to see only doom and gloom, then
even a ray of light will blind them. When one is constantly weighed down
with worry, he will only drag his feet down the path of
discontent. However, if we take life's bumpy road, as a chance to exercise
our endurance, and turn the lemons handed to us into lemonade, then unlike
the meraglim we will glean light from even the seemingly darkest
abyss. And one day we will follow the path of that light to the Promised
Dedicated by Steve & Faye Kollander and family with great praise to Hashem
upon the marriage of our children Arielle and Adam Parkoff
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
If you enjoy the weekly Drasha, now you can receive the best of Drasha in book form! Purchase
- from the Project Genesis bookstore - Genesis Judaica - at a very special price!
The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation