by Rabbi Dovid Green
The Children of Israel had just spent almost a year at Mount Sinai while
being miraculously supported by "Mon", food which fell daily from Heaven,
and a spring which was always available for the needs of all of the millions
of people there, and their flocks and herds. They were protected on all
sides by "clouds" which surrounded them. When they traveled, they followed
G-d's manifest presence through the wilderness. When it was finally time to
bring the Children of Israel into The Land of Canaan, they asked Moshe to
send scouts first. After all of the miracles they had experienced in Egypt
and in the wilderness over this period of 15 months since they had left
there, couldn't they rely on G-d's past record, and trust Him on entering
The Land of Canaan without sending scouts?
In the traditional Jewish approach there exists a balance between "bitachon"
(trust in G-d), and "hishtadlus" (human effort). Each individual must
strike the proper balance between the two. If not, either material pursuits
will be emphasized to the detriment of the spiritual pursuits, or vice
versa. A proper balance takes into account that G-d provides our livelihood
regardless of how many hours we put in. It is written that it is decreed on
Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) what a person's income will be for the
year. In that case why do we work? Since mankind was cursed with "you shall
eat with the sweat of your brow," which means that G-d's providence doesn't
come to us openly, we work. We are enjoined by G-d to be spiritual people,
and emphasize the spiritual even if we spend less time each day involved in
it as opposed to its counterpart. In Torah terms this means studying Torah
and performing it's commandments.
How much "hishtadlus," or human effort, was required by the Jewish Nation in
the period after it left Egypt? At that time G-d's providence was openly
manifest, and all of their needs were given to them miraculously. There was
no need to engage in activities related to earning a livelihood. They went
out and collected their "mon" every morning, and it was enough for the day.
They were free to be entirely spiritual beings with no other earthly pursuits.
However, being entirely spiritual is a tall order, and a very demanding one
at that. The Jewish nation had not reached that level (although they could
have), and they therefore expressed their desire to send scouts into The
Land of Canaan before going in to conquer it.
The scouts returned after 40 days and the Jews panicked upon hearing their
report. The scouts claimed that they could not enter the land. It was well
protected by great and powerful nations. The Torah tells us that the Jews
felt that G-d hated them and was planning on causing them to be killed at
the hands of these nations. They even went as far as to say that even G-d
could not stand up against the nations of Canaan. Our sages explain that
what they meant is that as a result of their having worshipped the Golden
Calf, and other sins they had committed, they would no longer merit G-d's
help, and they had to resort to natural strategies.
Rav Dessler explains that this was a very subtle, but grave sin. The Jews
were really struggling with the aforementioned balance between trust and
human effort. They leaned toward more human effort when less was indeed
required. All that they complained about was really a subtle lie which they
convinced themselves of out of fear.
The lesson we learn from this event is that our attitudes are easily swayed
by subtle concerns which we harbor in our hearts. We must always question
our motivations and approaches - where are they coming from? Rav Dessler
says that the human being can discern what is not the objectively correct
approach - if he wants to. Sometimes fears or other considerations can cause
one not to want to discern. The Torah is teaching us the repurcussions of
that kind of attitude.
Dedicated in memory of Leah Giza bas Shlomo Mordechai, by the Weinberg
family, Baltimore, MD.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.