Shelach: Believing is Seeing

Developing 20/20 spiritual sight.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Arutz 7
Every parsha of the Torah is connected to the centrality of Eretz Yisrael - but none more so than parshat Shelach, which contains the (in)famous incident of the spies. In Hebrew, we call these spies meraglim. But
On ten different occasions, it says they went out latur et ha'aretz.
here's the weird part: the Torah does not use that word. Instead, on ten different occasions, it says they went out latur et ha'aretz (to scout out the land) and not leragayl - "to spy". What's that all about?

Another puzzle: The end of our sedra takes what seems to be a wide turn in a totally different direction, inserting the third paragraph of the Shema, the one that deals with tzitzit. What connection does this have with the spies?

Every oleh knows the joke about the man given a chance to visit Heaven and Hell before he dies. He first is taken to Hell and is treated so royally that he opts to be immediately sent there when he dies, and doesn't even want to see what Heaven is like. When he passes on, he lands in Hell and is mercilessly beaten and trampled on. When he complains, "But hang on, this isn't the place I visited earlier!" he is told, "Ah, but then you were a tourist!" (Hebrew: az hayita tayar!)

All of us who have made Aliyah often reflect on how idyllic and enchanting Israel was when we we would come here to visit, and how "challenging" it is now that we actually live here. Some people even tell me they stopped being a Zionist the moment they became an Israeli citizen.

Tayar, or la'tur, is exactly like its English counterpart, "to tour." I suggest that the Torah is telling us that if we have the right attitude, the right vision, we can relate to Israel "like a tourist" even when we live here.
I suppose some people see lots of soldiers here and to them that must mean it's a dangerous place.

The key phrase in both the spies and tzitzit sections is ur'item oto - "and you shall see it." If your spiritual sight is 20/20, then the tzitzit remind you of the totality of the mitzvot, which encompass you even as the talit surrounds you completely. And if you train your eyes, you - unlike the meraglim - can see a beautiful country, filled with wonder and wisdom, a magnificent Land of Israel, which is the other mitzvah we perform which totally envelops a Jew.

Israel was recently named "the third most dangerous country in the world." I suppose some people see lots of soldiers here and to them that must mean it's a dangerous place. I see chayalim and it invokes pride, courage and glory. Others see a nation whose neighbors won't leave us alone; I see a country so precious that everyone wants to own it. The spies saw things that should have positively impressed them (like grapes so large they had to be carried on poles by two men!), but they interpreted them negatively ("weird grapes - weird people").

We must try to see Israel with eyes of faith, as a country that - like the talit - may come with "strings attached," but is a Divine place, where miracles are manifest.





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