June 12, 1999 28 Sivan 5759
by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
When the spies came back from touring the land of Israel with a negative report, they said those infamous words, "the nations are stronger than us/than Him. They used the words "Hazak hu mimenu" which can be interpreted as either "stronger than us" or G-d forbid "stronger than Hashem!" How could anyone say such a thing, let alone great leaders like the ten men chosen to be spies?
The Hafess Hayim says that they were really saying we are not worthy of a miracle, so therefore Hashem will not be able to overcome these nations. Not because of a lack of Hashem's power but because of our limitations, Hashem will not be able to do miracles for us. The lesson from this is that this is also wrong! We should never look at ourselves as so down that Hashem cannot help us. He can always help, He can always save, and we must turn to Him at all times, no matter what level we are on!
by Rabbi Reuven Semah
"They returned and provoked the entire assembly against him by spreading a report against the land. (Bemidbar 14:36)
Moshe Rabenu sent spies to study the land and report back. The Torah points at lashon hara, evil gossip, as being the focal point of the spies' sin. In reality, their sin was more complex. Our Sages state, when the spies said "Hazak hu mimenu- for he is stronger than us," the word "mimenu" can also be translated as "stronger than Him - the One above." This demonstrated a lack of faith in Hashem's power. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein asks, if so, why does the Torah dwell on a seemingly smaller sin of lashon hara? He answers that when one wants to repent, he must uproot the character trait that led to the sin. The actual sin is merely the bitter fruit of a negative character trait. Therefore, the Torah classifies their sin as lashon hara. It was their negative trait of besmirching others that led them to speak against Hashem.
The words of the spies were true in the strict sense of the word.
However, Torah standards require that the truth is the ability to verbalize the entire picture, not just that upon which one focuses at the moment. They spoke about the great strength of the residents of the land. Lashon hara is, by its halachic definition, verbally accurate.
What is wrong with it is that it is never the whole picture. It is a picture of another person (or as in the case at hand, the land of Israel) minus his G-dliness. A line is crossed when lashon hara causes the speaker not only to blind himself to the image of G-d found in his friend, but he now tries to convince others of his judgment.
Eres Yisrael is beautiful as it is. Hashem resides there more than anywhere else. Let's not allow the trait of finding fault and criticizing allow us to be blind to the Divine presence there. May we merit to return to her with all our hearts and souls. Shabbat Shalom.
"And how is the land that they dwell in, is it good or bad...are there trees there or not; and you shall be of good courage and take from the fruit of the land" (Bemidbar 13:19,20)
Rashi explains the concept of etz, tree, as a metaphor for an adam kasher, an honorable, virtuous man, whose merit will protect the pagans. This explanation, however, does not seem to fit into the sequence of the pasuk. What is the meaning of, "and take from the fruit of the land"? What relationship is there between "the fruit of the land," "its trees," and an "adam kasher"?
The Satmar Rebbe suggests the following explanation. It is difficult to ascertain the authenticity of an individual's virtue. It is possible to "put on an act" outwardly behaving honorably and virtuously, while simultaneously reflecting inwardly an evil demeanor! What litmus test defines the "real" adam Kasher? Moshe gave the spies the key for determining the true essence of man. Look at their "fruits," their children and students. One whose devotion to Hashem is not merely superficial will produce children and students who will follow in the path of Hashem. They attest to their father's/mentor's dedication to Torah observance, for children mirror their parents' essence. (Peninim on the Torah)
"And they cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes...and of the pomegranates and of the figs" (Bemidbar 13:23)
The spies used the fruits of Israel to disgrace the land. How is this iniquity corrected?
According to the Arizal, one purpose of the misvah of bikurim - bringing to the Bet Hamikdash the first fruits of the seven species, for which Eres Yisrael is praised - is to rectify the sin of the spies. The spies despised Eres Yisrael and spoke against its fruit while the Jewish people, by bringing bikurim, demonstrate their love for the land and its fruit.
The Mishnah (Bikurim 3:1) says, "How does a person set aside bikurim? He enters into his field and notices a newly ripened fig, a newly ripened grape cluster, and a newly ripened pomegranate. He ties a string around each one and declares, 'This is for bikurim'"
Though the misvah of bikurim applies to all the seven fruits with which Eres Yisrael is praised, the Mishnah mentions only these three to signify the particular connection between them and the spies: that by bringing them as bikurim, one rectifies the spies' crime against them.
When one who brought bikurim concluded his recitation, a heavenly voice proclaimed, ""You have brought bikurim today; may you have merit to do so again next year." Thus, the misvah of bikurim is a means to receive a heavenly blessing for longevity.
The spies, through their evil tongues, shortened the lives of the people in the wilderness. Consequently, it is most fitting that the misvah of bikurim, which rectifies their iniquity, should earn longevity for those who observe it. (Vedibarta Bam)
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