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  Parashas Shelach from
Living Each Week

By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski 

Other Available Chapters
Parashas Noach 
Parashas Toledos 
Parashas Vayigash 
Parashas Shemos 
Parashas Bo 

Parashas Shelach

You may send men to scout the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:2).

    The episode of the spies was not only disastrous for the generation of the Exodus who perished during the forty years of wandering in the desert, but it has also cast a pall over future generations. The Talmud states that the night the Israelites wept upon hearing the alarming report of the spies (14:1) was the eve of the ninth day of Av, the day on which both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem would be destroyed centuries later. "You wept for naught," said G-d. "You will therefore have reason to weep on this day for many generations" (Taanis 29a).

    In contrast, Joshua sent spies prior to entering Canaan, and the mission was highly successful (Joshua 2:1-24). Why did these two apparently similar incidents have such radically different consequences?

    The answer is quite simple and most instructive. As their response indicates, the spies of Moses went to see whether the land was conquerable or not. Although G-d had assured them that they would receive the land, they did not have trust in Him, and they deliberated whether or not the Divine word was reliable. The spies of Joshua, on the other hand, had no doubt about their ultimate triumph. Their mission was to determine the best method for entering the land, and they sought only how to implement the Divine will.

    Today, no less than thousands of years ago, this principle is valid: If one questions whether or not to obey the Divine will, there will be no scarcity of reasons why not to do so. If, however, one is determined that G-d's instructions will be fulfilled, and one seeks only how on can best fulfill them, then one's efforts will be blessed with success.

    I recall first-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe, who struggled to provide adequately for their families and did so without violating Shabbos. This was in the early years of the century when earning a living without working on Shabbos was extremely difficult. They triumphed over the challenge for only one reason: The thought of working on Shabbos simply did not enter their minds. When violation of the Torah is absolutely ruled out, obeying the Torah's feasible even under the most difficult circumstances. If one debates whether or not to observe the Torah, the battle is lost at the outset.

    When observance of Torah is not negotiable, everything else falls into place.

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