Thursday, June 14, 2012

Parashat Shlach Lecha: " The difference between the Spies and the Jews today ?"

View over the Galilee from Zfat (Safed)

Photo: Miriam Woelke

This week's Torah Parasha SHLACH LECHA is telling us about the fatal incident with the spies (Hebrew: Meraglim). G - d didn't command Moshe to send out the spies but various Jews demanded it and finally Moshe gave in. Didn't the Jews trust in G - d, as He had explicitly promised them way before that He will take them to a land where there is milk and honey floating. A GOOD (TOV) land. How could there be a doubt that G - d wouldn't fulfill His promise ? 

People are people and some of the Jews in the desert wanted a proof. Some commentators state that the Jews were afraid of settling in Israel (then Eretz Canaan) because they had a convenient life in the desert. G - d took care of everything they needed and was protecting them from all kinds of enemies. Once moving into the Promised Land, the Jews were supposed to settle the land. Each tribe in a different territory. Furthermore, they were supposed to work the land and make a living. Why give up the convenient desert life in order to settle a land they didn't even know. What about enemies and all kinds of dangers waiting for them ? Moving into the unknown ? 

G - d let Moshe know that if he is sending out the spies, this will be his own responsibility. G - d already knew the result but gave the Jews in the desert their FREE WILL and thus, a choice. The spies went out to spy out the land. They went everywhere. From the south up to the Galilee and Golan Heights. Chazal say that they returned on Tisha be'Av (9th of the Jewish month of Av), and their reports were anything but positive. Actually the spies didn't tell lies but what they did was taking all the facts and turning them into something negative. Everything they said was just negative and the people became afraid and started complaining. Then G - d said: "You are complaining about nothing. I will show you desasters and give you a real reason to complain about !" Since then, the Jews have been suffering from that promise. We will do so until Meshiach comes because then, Tisha be'Av is turning from a day of mourning (the two Temples were destroyed on that day) and fasting into a day of joy. 

The Maharal of Prague writes in his Torah commentary GUR ARYEH that the Jews were not ready to enter the land at that time. I found a very disturbing commentary written by the chassidic Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshis'cha (1767 – 1827), stating that the Jews then didn't deserve to enter the land. They didn't deserve it ? Why ? 

As his source, Rabbi Simcha Bunim, is quoting the commentary BEIT YAAKOV (Parashat Shlach Lecha). Unfortunately I was only able to get hold of the BEIT YAAKOV / Parashat Bereshit and not of Sefer Bamidbar. Maybe one of the readers is able to contribute the Beit Yaakov's commentary on this matter. Otherwise I take the Maharal's commentary where he says that the Jews then weren't ready spiritually. They were so used to seeing miracles every day that they simply couldn't imagine a worldly life anymore. He also said that those Jews were too far away from G - d and thus, G - d wanted a new generation to enter the land. As a matter of fact, most Jews of the Exodus generation died in the desert and a new generation grew up. 

The question arises whether we Jews are so much different from this particular generation in the desert demanding the spies to be sent out ? 

There are more than enough Diaspora Jews who rather stay in Galut due to their convenient lifestyle. Why move to Israel and suffer from all kinds of difficulties when we have a great income in Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles or Miami ? 

Some time ago I carried out a survey on one of my German blogs asking German Jews why they don't make Aliyah to Israel. The majority answered that they are too afraid not to find a job and an apartment. In other words they were too afraid of not being able to make a living. 

I can understand that kind of argumentation, as it is anything but easy to live in Israel. Unless you win the lottery or come with plenty of money. Learning a new language, getting used to a Middle East culture and being yelled at by impatient Israelis. On the other hand, in Israel you usually don't suffer from anti - Semitism and you are able to just be Jewish without justifying yourself. There are actually many positive things about Israel but one needs to open his eyes in order to see them. Everyone making an effort will find his place in society and immigration and being new has never been easy. Despite all the negative things in Israel, when you walk around with an open mind you will be able to recognize the beauty of the land and its people. We don't have an easy life but there are plenty of moments when you realize that Israel is a land where milk and honey float. Sometimes its hard to see but if you want to give up, you may regret your decision moving back to your former countries. 

Maybe the Jews in America, Canada, South Africa or Australia should, once in a while, ask themselves what they really want from life. What are their preferences and where do they see their spiritual life ? 

Shabbat Shalom - Gut Schabbes to all of you !


  1. Its easy to forget, but Israel is in Galus, and possibly the greatest Galus of all. To claim that spirituality and Torah can only be achieved in Israel goes against the Torah itself. Our entire mesorah is founded on the Torah of Galus, and the Diaspora specifically. Talmud Bavli (Babylon, Iraq), Codification of Torah from Spain, France, Poland.

    Israel will always be the scion of spirituality and a place where a person has a better chance of achieving spiritual heights.

    Still the arrogance of Israels who mock and literally spit on the Jews living outside of Israel that I find published on many blogs these days is another reminder of why we are still in Galus.

  2. the only reason we were going to enter israel after the dessert, is because G'd said so through moshe rabenu, his main servant and leader of that generation.
    The same G'd is not telling us now to go to israel. He is telling us to help all the other jews in exile materially and spiritually, until moshiach comes

  3. Shabbat Shalom to you!
    Living in America has its pros and cons. As one fellow told me, "No one immigrates to Israel for the money." Basically if someone goes to Israel it's for ideology, religion, or because it's necessary for sustaining (the) life (of the soon to be immigrant).

    I want to immigrate for life, education, and religious reasons. Yes it's nice I can own great things in American easily (assuming I have some amount of money).

    But frankly speaking I'm not always happy here. Actually, I'm barely happy. The hustle and bustle of life in American makes people (some people that is) self-absorbed at times. It's hard to find real people, who aren't absorbed with their studies, work, or their own interests. It's often hard to find people younger than 50 who enjoy dialog as much as I do.

  4. B"H

    @ Mochin Revachim

    I did not claim that spirituality can only be achieved in Israel but I do not see Israel in Galut. When you refer to all kinds of Jewish writings from Galut you should not forget the TALMUD YERUSHALMI. There are opinions claiming that, once Meshiach has arrived, the Jews will follow the YERUSHALMI and not the BAVLI anumore.

    The Talmud itself teaches that prayers from Israel, in particular Jerusalem, go straight to G - d whereas prayers coming from Galut have to take several other ways in order to finally arrive in Jerusalem and then go up to Shamayim.

    I don't see Israelis hinting Aliyah to Diaspora Jews as arrogant. I rather think that, as soon as we hint to making Aliyah, we touch the guilt feeling of Diaspora Judaism. At least of those who keep on telling themselfs that their life in the Diaspora is much better and convenient than in Israel.:-)

  5. B"H

    I can understand that a Jew with an anti - Zionism ideology is not moving to Israel until Meshiach comes. What I cannot understand is is that American Jews prefer living among thousands of Muslims, prefer suffering on anti - Semitic university campuses and anywhere else but still refrain from moving to Israel.

    Okay, Jews in America may have a better life, a better job, a much better salary etc. But what about all those Muslims and Israel haters surrounding you ?

    1. @ Miriam

      What about 'em (Muslims, skin-heads, and other haters)? Whatever worries I have I try to take precautions, like carrying my USP45 everyday. :) I almost leave home without it and without my leatherman.

      After a few years of carrying, I've found when I'm not carrying, it feels awkward. If I moved to Israel and wasn't able to carry, I would be bothered.

  6. we need to help jews outside israel too. most of the jewish leaders in the last 2000 years didnt tell us to move to israel. they did tell us to take care and love your fellow jew evereywhere, and keep tora and mitzvos everywhere

  7. B"H

    Regarding the Torah Mitzvot: Many Mitzvot can only be carried out in Israel.

    I am not saying that all Jews should move to Israel now but maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to visit. Do you know that the majority of American Jewry has never been to Israel ?

    At least traveling around the country, seeing Jerusalem, the Kotel (Western Wall) and other places.

  8. I did not claim that spirituality can only be achieved in Israel but I do not see Israel in Galut.

    @ Miriam

    Whether or not your "see" Israel in Galus is irrelevant to the fact that it is in Galus. Gay Parades, Chillul Shabbos, Chametz on Pesach, Trief Jewish owned restaurants, all night clubs on Yom Kippur Night. Need I go on? The land of Israel spits out the inhabitants and the only thing keeping the state of Israel from not being destroyed and exiled again is the Torah learning taking place there.

    What is your source for Talmud Yer. over Talmud Bav? Regardless, Moshiach isn't here physically and the Temple is not rebuilt. Galus is a fact.

    The Talmud does teach the order of prayers ascending, yet nowhere does it say that Jews in the Diaspora dont have their prayers ascend, albeit they take more steps.

    Not necessarily your blog, but many such as shirat devorah and dov ber end of days will write very arrogant and egotistical things about the Jews in the Diaspora.

    Bottom Line is Israel is in a poisonous Galus right now and we will see it very soon. I pray Moshiach comes now so we can avoid this.

  9. @ Miriam

    There are 613 mitzvos in the Torah. Today we are only able to fulfil 271 of those 613. How many mitzvos today can only be fulfilled in Israel? The Chofetz Chaim says 26. How many do Israeli's actually fulfil? Half if that since most of the Mitzvos today in Israel are based on Agriculture.

    Another reminder that Israel is in Galus since you cant fulfill even half of the 613 + 7 rabbinic mitvos even if you live in Eretz Yisroel.

  10. The Rambam Hilchot Melachim 5:9

    [If] a person cannot find financial resources or employment and has no money available, he may leave [Eretz Yisroel] and go to any place where he can find relief.

    Israeli's leaving for America to make more money is a bigger problem then American Jews not willing to leave.

  11. B"H

    First of all, I try focusing on the positive and not on the negative. Yes, there are gay parades and all kinds of Chillul Hashem but there are plenty of good things happening. Not everyone is religious and we see that Meshiach isn't here yet. On the other hand, I am glad to live in Israel where I can be Jewish without being judged. Well, sometimes the very secular do but, in the end, we are all Jews.

    2. I don't remember the source anymore but try looking it up.

    3. I didn't say that prayers of Jews in Galut don't reach their destination. The Talmud says that it will take the prayers longer to rise, as they first have to get to Israel, then to Jerusalem, then to the Temple Mount and then to Shamayim. In this respect, we in Jerusalem have a local line to G - d.:-)

    Not only the Rambam talks about making a living abroad if there is no work available in Israel. The Talmud itself does. If I remember right, in Masechet Ketubot.
    However, the Talmud itself limits the time living abroad in order to earn a living. If a Jew leaves Israel in order to make a living, he shouldn't do so for more than a year. I am not sure about the time limit and have to look it up. However, the Talmud quotes a time limit.