The Parsha this week is Parshas Shelach. In Parshas Shelach the Torah tells us of the episode of the spies. Moses sent twelve men, one from each tribe, to spy on the land of Israel. They were to check on the land and on the people who live in it, to see if the land was good and if its inhabitants were strong; to see if the cities were fortified or not; to see if the earth was fertile or notů These twelve men, the Torah tells us, were all important people. The commentaries definitively point to them as being judges of the Jewish nation. Yet, these great people fell and caused one of the most tragic occurrences in Jewish history. When the spies returned, it was on the Hebrew date of the Ninth of Av, (Tisha Bav). The spies told the Jewish people that the land of Israel, although it was a beautiful and fertile land, was impossible for the Jewish people to conquer. Their grim prognosis was accepted as fact. The Jews cried over the report of the spies, and Hashem decreed that they would have to remain in the desert for Forty years.

When we think about what happened to the spies, the question is raised: How could such great men do such a great sin to speak against Hashem?

The Sages tell us that the spies were motivated by a concern that they may lose their prestige. At this time the spies were all princes for their respective tribes. The spies were concerned that when the Jews would enter the land of Israel the Jews would be so busy with their own individual pieces of land and challenges in life that the stature of each individual prince of the tribes would be diminished. This concern for their own personal glory motivated them to try to get the Jews to turn away from going to Israel. Obviously, the spies themselves did not openly say or even feel that their motivation was so self centered to preserve their own glory. Nonetheless, the fact is that this is what motivated them to commit this major sin and change the course of Jewish history.

The lesson that emerges for us in our everyday life is that we always must question our motivations for our feelings as we go through life. If we want to relax, are we lazy or do we simply need a breather to remain healthy and serve Hashem better. If we want to eat something is it to be able to serve Hashem, or is it just a self-centered way of enjoying some physical pleasure?

If we can be honest to ourselves, and spend the time needed to improve ourselves, we will walk away better people, better family members, and better servants of Hashem.