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Dvar Torah - Shlach 5784

This week’s parsha focuses on the sin of the Miraglim, the spies who were sent out to scout the land of Canaan for the upcoming entry of the Jewish people into the country. Unfortunately, ten of the twelve spies returned with a negative report of the land of Israel. They reported that “the land through which we have passed, to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants.” (Bamidbar 13:32). The result was catastrophic. The Torah tells us that the people said to each other (14:4) “Let us appoint a leader and let us return to Egypt”. Hashem punished the entire people based upon the following formula (Bamidbar 14:34): “Like the number of days that you spied out the land, forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year, shall you bear your iniquities – forty years.” This is puzzling. The sin of the spies was not the time they spent spying out the land. The sin was their critical report after they returned from their mission and the people’s reaction to that report. So why were they punished for the number of days that they spent in Israel?


Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, ZT”L answers that the sin of the ten spies was not just the disparaging words that they spoke to the Jewish people when they returned. The source of their sin was their negative attitude that they brought with them about the land of Israel, even before they had ever set forth to spy out the land. That negative attitude colored everything that they observed for those 40 days. Therefore, they were punished for their negative attitude for each of the 40 days that they spied out the land. On the other hand, Joshua and Caleb were rewarded because their affirmative attitudes drew them to a positive view of the land and provided them with the strength to be able to counter the other ten spies.


Our attitudes impact everything that we observe. Two people can observe the exact same event, and perceive it in diametrically opposite ways, depending on their pre-existing attitudes. Relationships can fail when each person focuses on the deficiencies that they see in the other. In contrast, one’s outlook can build a strong marriage, where each overlooks the qualities that they find undesirable in the other, because they both focus on the positives that they see in each other. My father advised me many times that successful parenting depended much on praising the positives in our children and ignoring the negatives. The same applies to relationships between teachers and students, and between employers and employees. We should try as much as possible to focus on all that is good about the people and things around us. In that way, we can enjoy and appreciate the blessings that Hashem has given us and help bring more peace and harmony to our beautiful world.

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