This week, our Parshat HaShevua Shelach is being sponsored by Dr. Eli and Miri Behar of Ramat Beit Shemesh L’ilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of Yerachmiel Meir ben Nissim Avraham. To the Behar family, many thanks for your sponsorship and continued kindness.
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Parshat Shelach 5776: Today’s Ongoing War for the Jewish Soul and Against Laziness Amongst Am Yisrael and Parallels to the Miraglim
by Moshe Burt
Our Parshat Shelach, and the affair of the miraglim — the spies, annually brings to mind the evolution of the Israeli media, academia, political, governmental scene which has brought us to the state of affairs we are facing and continue to face today, and conjures up ways in which today’s state of affairs could parallel the event of the miraglim in Bamidbar.
This state of affairs includes the Nation facing continuing threats of tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of rockets aimed at all parts of Israel by both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, continued tolerance of seeming governmental indifference to Arab attacks upon Jews — near the Kotel, throughout Jerusalem and throughout Yehuda and the Shomron, whether by terror cells or, as we’ve seen of late, individual terrorist attacks using guns, knives, concealed explosives, or whatever deadly instruments the terrorists can get their hands on. We observe the governmental prohibition of Jews, even MKs, from praying at Har HaBayit (The Temple Mount), as well as alleged police framing of Jews regarding alleged violence and damage in so-called “Arab areas.” And we note the evolution of a leftist-politicized military establishment which prosecutes its soldiers for shooting-to-kill terrorists before the terrorist can kill them or their Jewish brethren.
Lest we forget the thousands of Hamas/PLO rockets which rained down upon southern Israel during the series of conflicts in Gaza since the expulsion of our Jewish brethren from Gush Katif. And we watch as an equivocal prime minister and government speak strong words against a “two-state solution”, only to eat those very words mere days or hours later. These all show clearly that the politicians, the elitist intelligencia, and many of the masses have stumbled and bumbled through numerous fiascos because they still have not learned and internalized the lessons which should have been gleaned from their previous fiascos, i.e., after then-prime minister Ehud Barak’s May, 2000 withdrawal of the military “like thieves in the night” from Southern Lebanon, or after Jew expelled Jew from Gush Katif, and historically, from the lessons of actions of the 10 corrupt spies. The fiascos of our govercnmental and military establishment have led to hundreds of thousands of Hamas and Hezbollah rockets aimed at targets throughout Israel, as well Hamas rebuilding its tunnels into Israel which were such a danger during the Gaza war of two years ago.
These fiascos provide great insight as to the consequences of the bourgeoning influence of today’s misguided spies, the leftist media, intelligencia, academia and the deeply entrenched leftist influence in Israel’s political institutions.
Thus, it seems that we continue experiencing a prolonged internal war for the soul of Am Yisrael reminiscent of events surrounding the Divinely-sanctioned directive by Moshe to send spies (miraglim) into Eretz Yisrael. Just as Am Yisrael cried needless, bitter tears in our Parshat Shelach, modern-day Israelis, many seemingly devoid of Emunah in The Almighty as they are bombarded with leftist endoctrinations and brainwashings, and lies and distortions framed as “facts”, throw their hands up in misguided fear, as if latter-day grasshoppers, bitterly proclaiming; “ein ma’alah sot, ein ma’alah sot.”
But why would Am Yisrael be such weak, vulnerable and susceptible prey?? Yehuda Nachshoni seems to trace possible roots behind this vulnerability (Studies in the Weekly Parsha — Behaaloscha, page 995-996):
Chazal say that the controversy over fish was rumblings of immorality; a protest against the laws of matrimony which had become accepted by the community of Israel. The people speak about “meat” and then turn and long for the “fish” that they ate in Egypt; the fish signify licentious desire. And the verse… “crying in families” (Bamidbar, Perek 11, posuk 10) — should be thought of as “crying about family matters.” They complained that the Torah forbade marital unions with relatives they previously had been free to marry (Yoma 75a; Shabbos 130a).
…Israel had been given a marital code at Sinai. Now they wished to be free of that code. Kesav Sofer connects this decline in morals with their earlier demand for meat. They… complained of domestic strife. They went on to develop their argument and claimed that the family quarrels were a result of the marital code; they were married to comparative strangers. Had they been permitted to marry people who were more closely bound to them by ties of blood, the families would be more…united; these quarrels about fish and meat would never have arisen. Moshe thought that the grumbling was about fish, meat and domestic strife and “it was evil in the eyes of Moshe.” But Hashem saw the deeper hidden motives — they wished to throw off moral restraints — and “Hashem was very wrathful.”
How do such hidden motives and their possible roots seem to relate to what appears as today’s war for the Jewish soul??.
In the same way that the Jews in Bamidbar reacted to change — a new code of marital unions which they were unaccustomed to and needed to acclimate themselves to, the leftist media and intelligencia, along with deeply engrained leftist roots in political and governmental institutions seem to have evolved to prey upon vulnerable masses of today’s Am Yisrael who, like B’nei Yisrael in Bamidbar, seem not sufficiently knowledgeable and unaccustomed to Halacha — Jewish law and morality and the eternal Jewish link and connection with Eretz Yisrael.
But it seems, at least to this author, that over the last number of decades, there has evolved various degrees of atzlus: laziness among B’nei Yisrael, both amongst secular and observant Jews.
Rabbi Henach Leibowitz, in his sefer “Majesty of Man”, cites Midrash in contrasting the success of Yehoshua’s spies: Calev and Pinchas, with the catastrophic failure of the spies appointed by Moshe in our parshat to scout out Eretz Yisrael. R’ Leibowitz cites Midrash (“Majesty of Man”, page 228):
…The primary factor which made Calev and Pinchas… so successful was their mesirut nefesh — willingness to give of themselves. Calev and Pinchas disguised themselves as salesmen, and went shouting through the streets of Yericho selling there wares so that no one would suspect them of spying.
The spies of Moshe, on the other hand, did not act with such mesirut nefesh. The cause of was a minute measure of atzlus… in them. It was this laziness that caused the nisi’im to view the situation in Eretz Yisrael without exerting the proper effort to achieve total clarity of vision. Their judgement was erroneous due to this small flaw. Had they exerted themselves properly, they would have seen the truth: conquering Canaan was within B’nei Yisrael’s power.
R’ Leibowitz goes on to cite Shlomo HaMelech as related in Devarim Rabbah 8:6):
An Atzel — a lazy person [re: going to learn]…. is having delusions of dangers and obstacles much greater than actually exist.
Shlomo HaMelech, though, is simply stating a fact of human nature: man avoids exertion. This force causes one to see events, actions and situations differently than they actually are. Shlomo HaMelech’s atzel created rationalizations due to his laziness.
As this author’s understands and interpolates then, among the observant, this possible atzlus reflects itself in areas such as fast-paced, auto-pilot tefillah without kavanah: intent, in the haphazard way that siddurim, Chumashim and other texts are replaced (or all to often not replaced) on their appropriate shelves in their rush to leave shul, leaving shul facilities in less than a respectful state and often not being sufficiently zealous for their fellow Jews and for Eretz Yisrael (thinking back to the expulsion of our brethren from Gush Katif an its run-up where many of us prioritized our own needs before those of our brethren). In this author’s understanding, inevitably there are many more such citations of atzlus not mentioned here.
Among the secular, its a case where they have been so misguided by generations of governmental, leftist-defeatist-cancer-infected military establishment, media and intelligencia elitist mythical “dogma” that, even being in close quarters in our small Medinat Yisrael, and having to interact with our various observant segments — sectors, they’ve been conditioned to abhor observance and thus seemingly lack the initiative — the mesirut nefesh to learn the truth. Add to that, the lack amongst most secular Jews to come to the aid of their Gush Katif brethren. And as with the observant sectors, inevitably there are many more such citations of atzlus not mentioned here. Thus is the war for the Jewish heart and neshama — Jews vs Israelis.
And matters are not helped by seeming atzlus on the part of certain rightist-activists who frequent Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), the Ma’arat HaMachpela, etc. but who, in this author’s view, stumble down the slippery slope of being benign regarding transportation on Shabbos, stating: “each community will make its own decisions, and private companies can fulfill those needs” — leading to myriads of additional Halachic issues, thus acting hypocritically in full view of Hashem and of the nations, thus endangering, with their hypocrisy, our very sovereignty over our Jewish Holy Places which these activists embrace, and over the entirety of Eretz Yisrael.
“The Midrash Says,” by Rabbi Moshe Weissman (Sefer Bamidbar, Parsha Shelach, pages 162-163) discusses the corruption of the spies:
The twelve spies were dispatched on the 29th of Sivan, 2449.
Although they had been tzaddikim at the time of their appointment, they turned sour as soon as Moshe sent them out. They immediately decided to bring back a derogatory report so as to detain B’nai Yisrael.
What caused the Spies to become corrupted?
They said to each other, “Under Moshe’s leadership, we are heads of the people. As soon as we enter Eretz Yisrael, Yehoshua will become the leader. He will then appoint a different cabinet of ministers. Let us therefore detain the people in the wilderness to ensure that we shall not be demoted from our high positions.”
They spent the next 40 days planning how to make it plausible that Eretz Yisrael could not be conquered.
In a National Council of Young Israel Parshat HaShevua (June 24, 1995) on our Parsha, Rabbi Dr. Chaim Wakslak cites a preface written by Chasam Sofer in his books of Responsa:
It was because of their leadership positions, intense piety and their acclimation to a miraculous existence that they wanted to avoid the non- spiritual, non-miraculous, somewhat pedestrian existence that awaited them in Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Dr. Wakslak goes on to write:
Had the Miraglim… realized that it was incumbent upon B’nai Yisrael to move from a realm of the overtly miraculous that they had enjoyed until then, to the fulfillment of Mitzvot…, they might not have arrogantly decided to resist the Divine plan and B’nei Yisrael might have been spared the punishment that the sin of the Miraglim led to.
In essence, the spies provided the perfect “out”, the perfect rationale to sever the bond. As heads of the Sh’vatim, the 10 spies, with their ulterior motives: maintainance and perpetuation of their positions, station and empires, their perks and spoils, they covered and perpetuated their own kingdoms.
And so, true to the form which both Nachshoni and Rabbi Dr. Wakslak describe, the disunity, and apparent mutual jealousy and distrust within the religious sectors today, coupled with the leftist, elitist intelligencia scoffers whose distorted historical revisionism have fed efforts by successive Israeli governments who sought, seek to divide and conquer, maintain, consolidate and perpetuate their secular kingdom at the expense of the governed and at the expense of Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael as well as against the advent of a REAL Jewish leadership. Such a Real Jewish leadership would be in nobody’s pocket, would not pander to certain sectors of the population for their votes by compromising Halacha, would owe no debts to today’s political hacks, would make no bargains with hacks who would throw any locality or segment of the governed “under the bus.” This Real Jewish Leadership would subserviant ONLY to Shemayim.
If today’s political/governmental leaders only realized and internalized the Eternal Incumbency of Shemayim, maybe they would realize that they need to step aside in favor of Real Torah-true Jewish leadership which epitomizes and reconnects the Jews with their Divine legacy: Eretz Yisrael..
We live in contemporary times where the earliest vestiges of disunity and disdain for one’s fellow Jews and for our Eretz HaKiddusha, as well as a total absence of emunah in Hashem, manifested itself in propaganda displays. This disdain and disunity has evolved into engrained, morally corrupt historical revisionist institutions and media which have lost grasp of who they are and why they or we are here in the first place. But we, the masses don’t have to accept, support and rally around contemporary false miraglim, be they so-called “journalists” or a former President of Israel, who defame OUR Divine legacy — Eretz Yisrael while endoctrinating and brain-washing successive generations. We must not support a hack “political beltway” whose mindset and actions have their roots in those false miraglim of Bamidbar, and who like them, fear for their modern-day secular empires — empires which would be lost for all time in an Authentic Jewish Torah-based governance, and for their political perks and spoils above all else.
We long for the attributes of a Moshe Rabbeinu, of a real Jewish leadership, which by its very nature, recognizes the necessity of national unity and the continued building and ingathering of the Jews to modern-day Israel. Such a leadership recognizes that success in Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, and in conflicts with enemies bent on our destruction are in the Hand of Hashem, but that the Yad Hashem depends on our unity and the labor, planning and efforts of our unity.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.