Yacov Nordlicht – Parsha Shelach – The Spies And “Decisions”

This week’s parsha deals with the story of the meraglim, where several of the great leaders of klal Yisrael went into Eretz Yisrael to scout out the land only to return with negative reports. Only Kalev and Yehoshua returned with messages of hope and bitachon.

The meforshim ask, how could the meraglim sin this way? This was the dor hamidbar, the generation which saw countless miracles with their own eyes! If HaShem said that they would go into the land and it would be safe, how could the meraglim return with reports which warranted a desire to return to Egypt?

I once heard an idea from one of my rebbeim which I think answers this question. Every single day of our lives, we make decisions. It’s feasible that there isn’t a soul on earth who spends one day without making any decisions. Even an inmate in prison whose freedom is basically removed makes decisions.

The question isn’t so much as to what the decisions are, rather what inside of us makes the decision. When a person decides to do anything in life, there needs to be a form of justification in order to act. It could just be a thought of “this will give me pleasure,” yet nevertheless, every decision has some form of reasoning.

I remember once when I was in middle school and was called into the principal’s office for doing something wrong. At the time, I had dealt with authority enough to know that the only way to truly win is to throw a curveball. The principal is always expecting the child to walk in and start arguing his case; how he’s not the real culprit rather the victim. Those are the kinds of kids who get suspended or even worse. I would walk in and say “I’m sorry Mr. Principal, I know what I did was wrong. I just wasn’t thinking. You can trust me, I won’t do it again.” That kind of answer would freeze principals. They wouldn’t know how to react! But in reality, was I truthful? Did I really never think about these things before acting? Maybe not consciously. But every time I would do something silly, there would always be a thought process. It was normally, “If I do this, people will think ‘x’ about me, and I want that…” There was a subconscious cheshbon for no decision is made without a root.

So what is it that makes the decision? On a basic level, a person is comprised of two parts, the guf and the neshama. Each one has a say, each makes a cheshbon. The question is, which one do we listen to? Do we make our decisions based on the desires of the guf, or the counsel of the neshama?

This was the meraglim’s problem. They became too focused on the externals, on the guf, and they failed to see within. The failed to see the depths, the neshama of the matter, that even though the situation looked bleak, HaShem was looking over us. Their guf had taken over, and when a person is looking at the world through the lenses that the guf provides without the neshama’s influence, the decisions made can be disastrous, even sometimes going against known truths!

This is also the reason why the story of the meraglim is in the same parsha as tzitzis. Tzitzis comes from the word “tzits” which means to look. The meforshim say that the yesod of mitzva’s tzitzis is to always look deeper. That even something so chitzoni like a shirt still has ruchniyus to it, the tzitzis. The sin of the meraglim was that they focused on the exterior too much. As a result, we learn about the mitzva’s tzitzis to remember to always look deeper.

The Chovos Halevovos in Sha’ar HaBitachon says this idea. He says that a person’s issues and hardships in life stem from a lack of recognition of HaShem. The same thing constantly applies to us. How often do we remember HaShem in our chitzonius-dik lifestyles? It’s a tremendous avodah, but one which is quintessential to yiddishkeit; to be able to grow in our recognition of HaShem, and as a result always make decisions with the proper state of mind.


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