By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
The Bible is not a history book. That is why many things in the Bible are not necessarily presented in the proper chronological order. In Hebrew, the word for Bible – Torah, comes from the etymological root which means teachings and lessons.
The stories and instructions in the Bible, and even the order in which things are presented, are a teaching and a guide for all times and for all places, directly from an eternal G-d.
Now, although the stories as they are written happened in the literal sense, exactly as it is written in the book, there is always a lesson from every story, for each individual person.
That is why for example, the Ten Commandments are written in the singular tense. That is also why when G-d created the world, He made one person. The entire world is here for the accomplishments of each person. The law is dependent on each individual person to be observed.
In this context, what are the lessons we can derive from the story of the spies?
Moses sends twelve spies to check out the land of Israel, to see where the weak spots are, and what the best way to conquer the land is. The spies return, and ten out of the twelve report: The land devours its people. There are giants over there. We felt in our own eyes like grasshoppers before those people.
Although two of the spies–Joshua and Caleb–tried to persuade the Jewish people that if G-d desired them to enter, they would certainly overcome whatever stands in their way, the Israelites were not convinced and harbored doubt.
They were afraid and complained to G-d, “If only we died here in the wilderness,” we would be better off.
G-d responds by giving the spies exactly what they wanted. They died, together with the entire generation in the wilderness.
Israel represents that small portion of land where holiness and the awareness of G-d is apparent. The land is a “very, very good land”. A land where the connection to G-d is direct. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai teaches, “G-d measured all the lands in the world, and did not find any land more appropriate and suitable for the Jewish people than the land of Israel.”
Israel in each of our lives represents the space granted specifically to each one of us, customized and personalized to our own unique purpose in this world. It’s the place where you find yourself today, right now. You are wherever you find yourself because that is exactly where G-d has given you the power and strength to conquer and turn into your own little special, spiritual Israel.
The spies felt that although there were so many miracles G-d had already demonstrated in the past, they thought that for this next phase things where perhaps changing. They thought of themselves like small grasshoppers. One cannot rely on the stories of the past for inspiration on the future. Perhaps, the Divine influence, the miracles, and the many unexpected positive turns of events in the past, would no longer happen.
Sometimes, when we reflect on the present and the upcoming challenges we are about to face, we say to ourselves, “It’s overwhelming.” Instead of just forging forward and using our heads in complete trust and faith in the mission G-d has placed on each one of us to fulfill, we use our head to consider whether to go on or not. We conclude, “We don’t have the strength,” etc.
“In the direction a person wants to go, he is lead.” If you are afraid to take on the challenge, you will die in the wilderness. If you think you are small, you will certainly fail. Discover the small voice that tells you, “Believe – have faith. The land is very very good.” Against all odds, the two spies of that entire generation made it into their land of Israel. They attained and conquered what they believed in.
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