If Only I Would Have Known!

June 4, 2021
SIVAN 24, 5781
Candlelighting Time 8:06 PM

            The generation that received the Torah at Mt. Sinai were exceptional and noteworthy in their self-sacrifice to fulfill Hashem’s will. Certainly, the leaders of that time must have been superbly noble people. Yet, in this week’s parsha the crème de la crème seems to have experienced an incredible failing of their understanding of their obligations as the head of the nation. As the people approached the Land of Israel, they requested from Moshe that he send out spies to scout out the land and bring back a report of what to expect when they entered. Although they should have relied on the guarantee of Hashem that their homeland would be outstanding and exceptional, that flaw was actually their downfall. The spies, their leaders, came back with a report that was both terrifying and discouraging. How is it possible that Hashem would promise them such a dreadful piece of real estate? Chofetz Chaim quotes that Zohar, a source of esoteric teachings, explains that the leaders who were sent by Moshe were concerned that although they are the leaders of the people in the desert, they would forfeit their positions once they entered into the land. How can we understand the apparent self-serving attitude of such great people?

            Rashi comments at the end of the last parsha that these corrupt individuals witnessed Miriam’s punishment for slandering her beloved brother, yet they did not take to heart what transpired. Why indeed did they not heed the overwhelming exposition of what happens when you degrade another or in this case the Land of Israel which had the confirmation of Hashem as a beautiful and wonderful place to live?

Perhaps we need to explore the issue of perspective! How does an established assessment affect our flexibility to react to a situation? The concept of innovation is based upon a person’s discerning evaluation. In other words, the ability to modify a situation is a basic necessity in order to have a creative and inventive mind. Although this seems to be a fundamental notion, it isn’t always as easy and elementary as one might imagine. One must be motivated to search for that new approach and if one doesn’t have that push, then they remain mired in their present thought-mode which may not be self-serving and not so favorable. The princes of the tribes initially offered twelve sets of sacrifices by the inauguration of the Mishkan. Although they were identical, however, each one had his own original reasons for why he gifted those particular items for the Mishkan. However, when it came down to the wire, these princes of their tribes were incapable of altering their mind-set and sadly this was their downfall. As we know, the greatest of intentions can design the worst scenarios.

Netziv at the end of the parsha expounds in profound depth that we must not chart our own course rather we are bound to adhere to the Torah ideals and revise our vision to accommodate that of the Torah. Would the spies have understood this lesson, then we would have marched into Israel within days instead of enduring a forty-year sojourn in the desert.


We are forbidden to disgrace Hashem. On the contrary we must honor and attempt to sanctify Hashem. Even to the extent that our own dignity and prestige are impinged upon.        CHOFETZ CHAIM