Friday, June 19, 2009

Shelach- Do Not Ask for Tests

In this week's parsha of Shelach we find that Moshe is told by G-D to "Shelach Licha Anashim (Shemos 13:2)." This means that you (The Jewish People) should send forth for yourself men. Rashi takes this interesting phrase and explains that it means that G-D did not command Moshe to send the spies, but rather He allowed the Jewish people to send them. The question here is why would the Jewish people be allowed to send the spies? If G-D wanted the Jewish people to inherit the land then He should have told them there is no need to spy out the land. However, if G-D wanted to cause the Jewish people to wander in the desert for another 39 years then He should have done that. Why did He allow the Jewish people to go through all the trouble of sending spies if the only outcome that sending spies would change would be to prevent the Jewish people from entering the land? Think about it, if the spies said the land was good, G-D would say that He already told us the land was good. However, if the spies said the land was bad, then G-D would keep us in the desert for 39 more years. In light of this, what was the point of sending spies?

There is an interesting Gemorah in Sanhedrin 107A. It talks about how King David was reading the Shemonah Esrei and saw that it said G-D of Avraham, G-D of Yitzchak and G-D of Yaakov, however it did not mention the G-D of David. This caused King David to say, "G-D, why does it not also say the G-D of David?" G-D answered him, "Because, I tested them and in their merit of passing those tests the Jewish people will forever mention their names to help me (G-D) accept their prayers." In response to this David said, "So test me too." G-D said, "I will test you, but you will fail." Then the incident with Bat Sheva happened as described in the eleventh chapter of Shmuel 2.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains why it is that King David is told by G-D that he is going to fail. Rav Shmuelevitz says that every time we are tested by our evil inclination G-D helps us overcome our evil desires and hence we are able to succeed in our task. However, we are only able to succeed because G-D helps us overcome our base desires. If we were to request a test then G-D does not help us overcome these base desires, because who are we to request tests? We should never put ourselves into a dangerous situation where we are subjecting ourselves to the evil inclination willfully.

I would like to suggest that this is what happened by the sin of the spies. The Jewish people believed in G-D. They had seen Him on Mount Sinai and they had witnessed all of His miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea. It was impossible that they did not revere and love G-D with all of their hearts and all of their their souls. However, they made a big mistake. Just like King David asked for a test and failed because of the fact that he asked for a test, so too the Jewish people failed merely because they asked for the test. King David revered G-D and loved Him, however, since David requested the test he was unable to overcome the temptation of sin. So too by the Jewish people, they requested the test of sending spies into Israel. They wanted to show that they were worthy of the land by proving to G-D that they would love it even more if they saw it than if they relied on G-D's words alone. However, this was their undoing, they should have just relied on G-D's words alone even if they thought they would love the land more had they seen it with their own eyes. It was because of their zealousness that they became doomed to wander in the desert for another 39 years.

This idea just shows that, sometimes, being over zealous is dangerous and costly. This is why the Rambam tells us that the middle path is always the best. A person should never try to be overly righteous because sometimes that can get them into trouble. King David and the Jewish people in the desert meant well. As Rashi tells us in the beginning of the parsha, the spies were originally very righteous. However, testing yourself to prove your righteousness backfires and ends up proving that even the righteous are not perfect.


IudaismRo said...

How to know when being zelous is dangerous sometimes?

E-Man said...

It seems like there is a common problem between these two situations. Both King David and the Jews in the desert thought that they knew what their own destiny should be. When people have an air of arrogance to them, that usually spells disaster. King David meant well, but his request for a test showed that he thought he knew better than G-D. Also, the Jews in the desert's request for spying out the land showed that the Jews thought they knew better than G-D.

These cases both show that, even when the intentions are good, one can never act with arrogance. If a person is not completely humble like Moshe, then their zealousness is never 100% pure.

When a person is following the halacha, then their zealousness is not based on their own intuition. However, when a person puts themselves into a situation that is questionable, then that is where the problems begin. For example, a person can b zealous about davening or doing the mitzva of matzos. However, what happens when this guy thinks he should go to a beach and start throwing rocks at people that are dressed immodestly? Is this the proper type of zealousness or is it the type of zealousness that only accompanies someone who is arrogant?