This Shabbos we read Parshas Shelach. In the Parsha we read of the tragic tale of the spies, the men who Moses sent to spy on the land of Israel. Ten of these twelve men ended up giving a terrible report about the land of Israel, claiming that the people in it were stronger than the Jews were, and that it was impossible to conquer it. Joshua and Caleb both maintained that the land could be conquered by the Jews. In the tragic unfolding of events, the Jewish people believed the ten spies, and the decree was made on that Tisha Bav that the Jews would remain in the desert for forty years as the old generation died out, until the new generation would be allowed to enter the land of Israel.
As the story develops, the twelve men come back from spying out the land. They acknowledge that the land flows with milk and honey; however, they add, the land is full of strong warriors, the cities are heavily fortified, and there are giants there... At this critical point Caleb cries out “Is this all the Ben Amram – the son of Amram (Moses) has done for us? This call quieted down the crowd, as everyone listened to hear what Caleb would say to knock Moses. Caleb then proceeded to try to rally the Jewish people behind Moses: “And he (Caleb) said, we will certainly go into it, for we can conquer it.” (Numbers 13:30) The other spies then countered with their own claims, telling the Jewish people that it was not possible to conquer the land. The Jewish people believed them , crying about their terrible misfortune of going to the land of Israel, and this ushered in the concept of Tisha Bav and the national Jewish day of mourning.
There is an obvious question that comes to mind as we read this story: Of what significance is it for us to know that Caleb got the people to be quiet when he tried to defend Moses? After all, at the end of the day the Jewish people did believe the spies over Caleb, and the terrible decree did come upon them. Why then, does the Torah make a point to tell us that there was a moment that Caleb succeeded in swaying the Jewish people from the spies?
The commentaries point out to us a very important lesson. We tend to look at the final results of everything. In Hashem’s eyes, everything that happens is important. The fact that there was a moment that the entire Jewish people didn’t follow the spies and followed Caleb was a monumental achievement. Regardless of what happened in the end, these few moments were a time that the will of Hashem was followed and that is a great accomplishment.
We tend to always look at what the final results from anything we do are. We came to shul to help for a minyan – if there was a minyan we feel accomplished; if there wasn’t we don’t. We went to study; If we understood the learning we feel good; if not we don’t. This is a mistake. The Torah taught us that what Caleb did was great regardless of whether it ended up changing things or not. Whenever we make the effort to do a good thing, that alone is a great accomplishment and should be recognized as such.