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YIP Parsha Project Parshat Devarim

07/29/2014 12:00:16 AM


YIP Parsha Project

Parshat Devarim                                                                     Joshua and Sara Maltzman 

This Dvar Torah is based off of the words of Rav Ronen and Rabbanit Pnina Neuwirth, who unfortunately cannot join this week because of the Matzav in Israel.


Parashat Devarim is always read on the Shabbos before Tisha B’av. It is clearly not a coincidence that the story of the meraglim (spies) is repeated in this parsha, since Chazal tell us that the sin of the meraglim was the first of the many tragic events of Tisha B’av.

Concerning the day the spies declared their negative report, the Talmud (Ta’anis 30b) writes: “And the entire congregation lifted up their voice, and cried aloud, and the people wept that night.” [Numb. 24:1] Said Rabba in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: “That night was the eve preceding Tisha B’Av, and the Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘Because you have cried on this night in vain, then I shall ordain it that your future generations shall lament on this day forever.’” We see from this gemora that the Spies caused a sin so great that the most infamous day of Jewish history, Tisha B’Av, was ordained by G-d as an eternal remembrance of how the nation cried in vain because of the spies.

The most puzzling idea about the meraglim is that they were not inherently bad people, despite their bad report. In fact, the meraglim were chosen because they were the best of the best!  The Torah writes that the spies were all distinguished in their leadership ability, special status and wisdom in Torah (two of the most famous among them serving as examples for this fact: Kalev ben Y’funeh, and Yehoshua bin Nun.)  So how did it happen that these Gedolim make this huge error? How could those spiritual leaders not want to enter Eretz Yisrael after witnessing the miraculous redemption from Egypt, and all the other miracles within the Midbar? Could they really lose their trust in Hashem when they have already survived tougher adversity?

The Sfat Emet (Admor of Gur) had a tremendous insight on this matter. Through reading the Zohar, he writes that the Spies were concerned about losing their spiritual influence by going to Eretz Yisrael, and therefore decided that for the sake of the Torah, it is better to dwell in the Galut because they were very comfortable with the spiritual manners of life in the desert. Having heavenly bread – manna – each and every day, clearly revealing the Shechina, following the fire and the cloud pillars, learning Torah all day without concern for physical needs…those spiritual benefits were not easy to give up. The spies were sure that for Am Yisrael, which was totally immersed in a spiritual environment at the time, entering Eretz Yisrael would be a disaster. Surely, they believed that they would defeat the enemies in Eretz Yisrael with the help of Hashem, but then they realized there would be a need to establish an army (taking men away from their full-time Torah study in the Midbar) and a necessity to establish political systems and economic infrastructure (even more bittul torah!) in order to settle the land flowing with milk and honey.

From this, we can understand that the spies indeed had very good intentions because if Am Yisrael will have to deal with all these tasks- then who will sit and study Torah? So the spies decided to do Hashem a “favor” – let’s stay in the Galut where we can serve you much better here than in Eretz Yisrael – after all, it is for the sake of the Torah!!!

The root of this sin was the lack of ability to integrate heaven and earth. The Torah of Eretz Yisrael is the Torah that provides us with the skills and potential to spiritually uplift matters which are mundane, something that cannot be achieved elsewhere. In other words, the letter and the spirit of the Torah cannot be achieved at its optimal level without the Avoda component, something integral to Torah fulfillment in Eretz Yisrael. From this, we see that Hashem prefers for us to elevate the bread that comes from the ground over the eating of heavenly bread – the manna. While it can be easily understood that it is every Jew’s responsibility to elevate the seemingly mundane to a status of holiness (in conjunction with his Torah learning), the spies overlooked the fact that the quintessential paradigm of Avodat Hashem is to live in “heaven on earth”, i.e. a heavenly “manner” while grounded and attached to earth – by the virtue of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Torah V’Avodah.

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Sun, September 27 2020 9 Tishrei 5781