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Lesson of Shlach Lecha


We know that the men who were sent to spy out the land of Canaan were not just the heads of the tribes. They were righteous souls or Moses would have not sent them. So why did they tell lies about the land in their reports to Moses? Both the Zohar and the Midrash explain that the spies were afraid of what would come and everyone would know the secrets of Creation, causing them to lose their power as the heads of their tribes since they would then be redundant. 

Nevertheless, even if the spies had not been among the most righteous people of the generation, it is not clear how they could have spoken so negatively about Moses and the land of Israel. How could they sin after being in the desert with Moses for so many years and experiencing all the miracles firsthand. There must be a deeper explanation of why the spies acted as they did, as well as some knowledge of how he can be protected from any trap similar to the one they fell into.

To shed some Light on this question, Rav Berg says that we must look carefully at the words of Moses when he commanded the spies to go to the land of Canaan. Moses specifically said to them, ” Go and spy out the land:. In other words, Moses sent them only to look at the land, not to live in it. When someone is a tourist in another land, the drawbacks of that place do not bother him as they would an inhabitant because, as a visitor, he is not permanently attached to the place. when Moses sent the spies they were supposed to be dispassionate about everything. They were to so as observers, not as immigrants.

12 spiesFrom the beginning Moses gave the spies a solution to their desire receive for the self alone, he told them to look at everything the way a tourist would. But they ignored this injunction and invested at the ego level in their evaluation of the land, and this was the reason for their false report. In our own lives, we, too, fall prey to illusion, rarely looking at things with detachment. Detachment means observing our lives the way we would if we were in a movie with actors and scenery that were not connected to us in a fundamental way. When we actually “live” in a certain place and are not just tourists, the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, gains power, and we see things, not dispassionately but from the perspective of how they affect us and what is ours.

To disconnect from the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, we should learn to look at things from a distance, objectively. The only way we will arrive at the correct judgement is by looking at things from a distance, objectively. The only way we will arrive at the correct judgement is by looking at things without any connection to the self- without thinking of “I” or “me” at all.

This is also the reason why, in the reading from Numbers 10:31, Moses asked Jethro to be the eyes of Israel. Couldn’t Moses have found an Israelite to do the job? Why did he have to choose a Midianite? The answer lies in the principle we have just been discussing. Only a person from outside the Israelite form of reference could really form a true judgement. This is the only way we ourselves can gain a perspective not contaminated by the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. Jethro never did take responsibility for being the eyes of Israel. However, the fact that Moses asked him to do so shows us how we too, can be “eyes” – if only we will subdue our egos and see everything the way tourists do. Only in that way will our eyes be able to see the truth clearly.

Shabbat Shalom!

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