Look Around and Learn – Parshat Shelach


Parshat Shelach begins with a story. Hashem tells Moshe he may send in the leaders of each of the tribes to investigate more about the land they are entering into. This is the Land that Hashem will bring them to – the one He had promised since the time of Avraham Avinu (our father). There really was no need to have them scout the land. Surely Hashem already knows what’s best! Nevertheless, God gives Moshe the opportunity to take the initiative if he so wishes and to have people from the nation of Israel see how wonderful it is themselves. With all this – the scouts – save for Kaleiv ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun bring back a negative report, ultimately causing the entire nation to wander in the desert for forty years, and in fact die without meriting to enter the land!

Rashi (1040-1105) – the foremost commentator on the Torah, questions: “Why is the portion of the spies juxtaposed to the portion of Miriam (having spoken Lashon HaRa (derogatory speech) about her brother Moshe in the previous Parshah)?”

He answers: “Since it was that Miriam was afflicted (with leprosy) on account of her negative speech, speaking against her brother (having criticized him for separating from his wife) – and yet these reshaim (evil people) saw this, but they did not learn the lesson.”

In just a few words Rashi comes to teach us a huge lesson in life!

The Baal Shem Tov – Rabbi Yisrael (1698-1760) teaches that everything a person sees or hears is for a reason (no matter what it is!) and that we must see it as Hashem talking to us, telling us what is right and what is wrong – and so that we should learn from it.

Here, in this Parshah, Rashi teaches us this very idea – though he focuses on the learning from the negative in this instance. Each day, we are exposed to hundreds of events (even when we don’t realise it!) We should open our eyes and be on the alert to everything happening to us. God is speaking to us through the language of people, animals and even inanimate things.

When we see good – we should certainly learn. When we see a lesson in life in front of our eyes – especially when a negative consequence has occurred to someone due to a bad choice – we should internalize this, to be sure we ourselves will never come to make that same mistake.

Miriam was afflicted because she spoke badly about her brother – who was really good. The spies saw this, yet when they were asked to venture out to see the “good Land” that G-d was giving the Jewish people i.e. the Land of Israel – they should have remembered that speaking negatively and badly about something which is in fact inherently good can have disastrous results!

What could they have done? The spies could have (and should have) found the good that was awaiting the Jewish people (which we see to this day!) cast aside the things they felt to be problematic, and have spoken well about the Land to the entire nation. The result would have been the greatest of blessings then. The Jewish people would have entered the Land in just a few days. There would have been no forty year trek, no deaths in the desert, and ultimately as we can imagine – Moshe would have entered the Land himself (as he surely would not have encountered the episode of striking the rock during their travels.) Had this occurred – and that Moshe had entered, it would have meant that the Jewish people would have completed the service of repairing the fallen sparks of Creation, which would have meant the world would have reached the highest level of God consciousness. In short, it would have been the time of Moshiach (the Messiah for whom we await – to bring this world into a state of shalom -peace, goodness and awareness of the Creator of all worlds.

When we encounter an event in life which shows us something negative that should be avoided, this should do nothing less to us than to make us aware, that should we ever encounter ourselves in that situation, let us be cautious about following the same behaviour. Let us turn around and run as fast as we can – to keep ourselves away from the bad, and take a turn on to the path of goodness.

Shabbat Shalom! Wishing all a peaceful and blessed Sabbath!


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