This week’s Parsha is Parshas Shelach. The Parsha contains the tragic episode of the spies who were sent by Moses to check out the land of Israel. The spies came back on the notorious day of Tisha B’av, with a devastating report, one that left the Jews unwilling to go to the Promised Land, and resulted in the decree that they spend 40 years traveling in the dessert until they all died and the next generation entered Israel. To this day the day of Tisha B’av remains a national Day of mourning for all Jews around the world.
When Moses first chose the twelve men who were to go to spy out the land, the Torah says that they were kulam anashim – they were all man of note. Our Sages explain that at the time they were chosen, all 12 of the spies were good people – people who did not want to sin. Nevertheless, in the end they did sin – not only for themselves, but they led an entire generation astray, against the will of Moses. Why did people who were in words of the Torah itself “good people” end up sinning in such a terrible way? How could such a thing happen?
Our Sages tell us that the root of why the spies sinned was because they were worried that when the Jews would enter the land of Israel their positions of influence as tribal princes would be diminished. While these men may not have realized it themselves, the concern for their own personal glory was what was making them decide how to react to the things they saw as they spied out the land of Israel.
The commentaries point out two most important lessons that are contained in this episode: 1) A person has to always make sure what his or her true motivations are. Certainly these princes themselves thought that their motivation for what they said about the Land was pure. They would be shocked to hear anyone accusing them of anything but the purest of intentions. Nevertheless, they were wrong. Deep down in their heart, what really motivated them was a deep concern for their own personal glory and to keep that glory. When we make judgment calls and decisions, how carful must we be to make certain what our true intentions are!!! How important to refrain from making statements or voicing opinions until we consider over and over what our opinion is based on. Is it self motivated for some personal gain? Should we reconsider?
Secondly, the commentaries point out, we must consider how successful the spies were. Ten men managed to change an entire nation of millions!!! How much can we accomplish for good if we only try!!! If we don’t sell ourselves short, we can help and change others, million of others, in the most special way possible.