Rabbi Moshe Kempinski
Rabbi Moshe Kempinski Courtesy

In the Torah portion of “Shlach- “ we read how Moshe sent twelve spies into the land to explore its strengths and weaknesses. Ten of these spies return with an evil report and only two, Joshua and Calev (Caleb) , declare that “the land is very, very good”.

These "spies" or "scouts" were not ordinary people, as Moshe would not send ordinary people for such a mission .The text describes them as men who were of great spiritual stature;

"Send out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel. You shall send one man each for his father's tribe; each one shall be a chieftain in their midst. So Moses sent them from the desert of Paran by the word of Hashem. All of them were men of distinction; they were the heads of the children of Israel."(Numbers 13:2-3).

Moshe wanted the twelve scouts to explore the land reveal its greatness and bring back tidings of its promise. Ten of these men did not have the vision to do that. All they saw was their own unworthiness, “And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." (Numbers 13:33 ).

Their failure was based on their faulty view of themselves. Their impaired vision of "we were in our own sight as grasshoppers" weakened them in their journey into destiny.

They lost a true sense of how far they have come and also on their potential to achieve so much in the future.

Yet in order to amplify their fearful declaration they brought the giant fruit of the land of Israel.

And they cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes, and bore it on a double pole, and of the pomegranates and of the figs.(Numbers 13:23)

They brought the large and impressive fruit to frighten the people rather than to empower them .

'They went, and they came to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the desert of Paran, to Kadesh. They brought them back a report, as well as to the entire congregation, and they showed them the fruit of the land.They told him and said, "We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant.(Deuteronomy 13:26-28)

They brought from the fruits that G-d blessed the land of Israel with. For Hashem your G-d is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks and fountains and springs that flow through the valleys and hills; a land of wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey. (Deuteronomy 8:7-8)

Those same fruits would eventually be used to help repair the sin of the spies.

We read in the beginning of the Torah Portion of Ki Tavo the following;

“And it will be, when you come into the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which Hashem, your G-d, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which Hashem, your G-d, will choose to have His Name dwell there.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-2)

After a year of toiling, planting, watering, tending, and caring for the produce man has grown, he enters his field. He sees the first ripening fruit of one of the seven species “A land of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-producing olives and honey[-producing dates.“(Deuteronomy 8:8) .The farmer ties a band over this fruit and declares “This is for Bikkurim (the ceremony of first fruits)” Later, when it ripens, he places it in a basket.

As the procession would walk through the streets of Jerusalem, all the workmen , laborers and scholars would stop what they are doing and stand in honour of these farmers bearing Bikkurim. . Everyone including the High Priest and the King would welcome them.

The reason seems to be that these farmers, in this situation, during these festive times themselves act as high priests. They are the tools of G-d’s revelation within nature.

Farmers know what most of us forget.

Farmers know what the Spies did not relate to.

Farmers intuitively know that that nothing will come out of the ground unless Hashem wills it.

Yet just as importantly they know that nothing will come out of the ground unless they get their hands dirty.

Farming especially in the land of Israel necessitates an awareness that their toil is an expression of Hashem’s will.

That is what the spies could not understand.

That is the lesson for all of us today living in the reborn land of promise

LeIlui Nishmat Yehudit bat Sinai veGolda Yocheved