It is often said that the Torah either had to be written by G-d or anti-Semites. No religion in the world has as its central holy text a work so rife with such self criticism. Over and over again the Jewish People seem to be falling on our faces. Messing up. Over and over again G-d gives us another chance. Not so in this weeks parsha, not this time. For some reason it is this sin, the sin of the spies that we can not bounce back from. G-d tells us this time there is no second chance, this entire generation must die in the desert. In fact the day the spies returned and gave there negative report about the Land, was the 9th of Av. A day that has been stricken with national calamity over and over again throughout our history as a people.
What was so much worse about this sin than say, The Golden Calf? Korach’s rebellion? All the kvetching.
Even crazier, we seem to have G-d’s permission to send the spies in the first place! G-d says, “Send forth men, if you want, and let them spy out the Land that I give to the Children of Israel.” Bamidbar 13:2
Moshe even sends them and gives them advice. “Moshe sent them to “tour” the land of Canaan and he said to them, Ascend here in the south and climb the mountain. See the Land. How is it? …and the people that dwells in it… is it fertile or is it lean… take from the fruits of the Land.”
And then maybe the most tragic moment in all of Jewish history, the spies return and give a negative report.
The people that dwells in the Land is powerful, the cities are very greatly fortified… We cannot ascend to that people for it is too strong for us… The Land .. is a land that devours its inhabitants….
You hear over and over again in Israel… It just ain’t easy. Forget about the rock throwing on the roads of Gush Etzion, or the rocket attacks or the constant threat of WMDs from Syria and Iran, just earning a living here is a killer.
You don’t move to Israel to make your life easier.
The flip side of this.. if there is one positive aspect to all of these challenges we experience, that we are going through in this country, it is that it is forcing us to ask powerful, important questions.
Why do we need to have a State of Israel? Think about it for a minute.
There is no place in the entire world right now at this moment were Jews are consistently being killed because they are Jews with the exception of here in Israel. You could make a powerful argument that we as a people would be far more secure without the State of Israel.
Believe that we will be more secure or not, and I admit that it is a valid argument, if the Jewish People are in the Land of Israel only to live safely it could be that giving large portions away is the right thing to do. Uproot the Jewish villages and cities of Judea and Sumeria (the West Bank). Dismantle the settlements and build a big wall. Why not?
Maybe we need a State of Israel so we could live vibrant Jewish lives?
Well guess what? I hear they have kosher sushi at the Supermarket in Bala Cynwyd where we made aliyah from. When I lived in Philadelphia there were nine minyanim within a mile of me Shabbat morning. Torah classes every night in several locations around my old neighborhood. In America there are now choices of day schools, shuls, kosher restaurants. And guess what, no suicide bombers, and the people sure drive better!
I believe with all of my heart that we are today living out the parsha of the spies.
Moshe sent them to “See the Land”, to experience its beauty and its holiness. To fall in love with the Land, and to realize its unique gifts to the Jewish soul, to realize that to being a Jew and being in the Land of Israel go together like nothing else in the world, and there is no place else we can truly be who it is we were meant to be. A Holy Nation in our Holy Land. OUR LAND.
Instead, the spies strategically accessed the situation. Was it, or was it not feasible to live there, to survive to maintain their standard of living, to dwell securely among the inhabitants.
The mistake that they made, was that they completely disregarded what Hashem had said to them. “…the Land that I give to the Children of Israel.”
Friends, let me make something clear.
I do not live in the Land Israel because I can have a more vibrant Jewish Life here, even though certainly I do.
I do not live in the Land of Israel because my family is more secure here, even though I truly believe that we are.
I live here in the Land of Israel, because I am a Jew and this is the Land that G-d promised to my father Avraham. This is the Land that G-d gave to the Children of Israel. This my Land!!
It is crazy! If you ask one of my Arab neighbors here in Israel what the essence of the problem is he will tell you, “The Jews occupy our land.”
We Jews make so many excuses. Should we freeze settlements? Uproot communities? Create a Palestinian State? We might be more secure if we do, we might not? Is that really the question?
Judea and Sumeria? The Green Line? 67 borders? Settlements? Is it good for us to be there? Is it better if we leave?
The Spies said that, “…we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes”
Maybe this is telling us that the world is going to see our connection to the Land of Israel how we see our connection to it. We thank G-d live in a time where the vast majority of non-Jews are good, good people. If we say that we need to feel secure, they will no doubt make us feel secure, we do not need a land for that. If we say that we want to actualize our Judaism on a deep deep level, we will get kosher sushi, no doubt about it. For kosher sushi you do not need a land.
It is my belief, that the only reason we need the Land of Israel, the only reason that truly matters, is that it is OUR LAND. It is the Land G-d gave to us to be who we were meant to be. The Land of Israel is the only place where we can truly, truly do that.
I live in the Hills of Judea. I walk in the footsteps of my forefathers and mothers, I will Please G-d grow old watching my children and grandchildren walk her wadis, swim in her waters, play in her narrow alleyways, growing up tall and tan and proud and free in their Land. If I merit I will dance under their chuppahs in the cities of Yehuda and the streets of Yerushalayom. And should the time come when my time is done here on Earth, my body will be lain to rest in her sweet soil until the Great Day.
The greatest fixing we can do for the sin of the spies, in my opinion is to come home. If not at this moment to make a life, then to spy it out. Not with the eyes of strategic assessment, but with the eyes of a lover. Come home not to not look at our Land with a check list, but to see it for what it is. Our soul-mate, Our gift from G-d, our Land.