Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shlach) Impressions of Huge Fruit
When Moshe instructed the 12 spies what to look for when they scouted the Land of Israel, he ordered them to bring back its fruits.
The Torah continually stresses the wonderful material and productive qualities of the Land of Israel. Some examples: Israel is often referred to as, “The land that flows with milk and honey.” In the prayer of Shema, the verse states, “If you follow My Commands…I will give a bounty in your crops.” Aside from the historical and commemorative reasons for the three festivals of the year, the Torah specifically associates each of the festivals with the agricultural seasons of the Land of Israel.
This prompts Rabbi Yaacov Kaminetzky o.b.m. to examine how the Torah directs a Jew to view the spiritual soul he is endowed with vis-à-vis his physical body. Do we believe there is an integration of the two, or are they two separate entities? The general feeling outside of Judaism is that there is no connection between the physical body and the soul. The soul is, so to speak, enclosed in an area where holiness dwells.
Judaism espouses that there is a fusion between body and soul. The physical, whether it’s one’s body, his produce, relationships, speech, handiwork or creation, through proper usage and expression, can be transformed into holiness.
There is a Mitzvah for one to enjoy Shabbos and festivals through eating and drinking, whereby one’s body is uplifted. The study of Torah and the performance of Mitzvos uplifts and elevates us to higher spiritual levels. Ramban explains that G-d created all the virtues, beauty and character of the land so that we will clearly see and comprehend the great value, goodness and significance of the land.
Why are blessings presented to us not always so clear and appreciated?
Moshe knew that it was a mistake to send the spies. After all, G-d had promised the Jews that they would immediately and miraculously enter and conquest the land. Yet, the Jews insisted on sending scouts into the land. Moshe asked G-d for permission. G-d responded that they may send the scouts, however they would be on their own and therefore at risk.
The Netziv points out that after Moshe instructed the spies what to look for regarding the challenges of overtaking the land he instructed them to bring back its fruits so that in case they come back with a discouraging report (which they did) the vision of the wonderful bounty and blessing of the land’s fruits should stand as an encouraging and optimistic indicator that they should proceed and enter according to G-d’s plan.
The spies followed Moshe’s instruction and brought the fruit back with them. The fruits were extremely massive. The Talmud explains that to carry a single cluster of grapes required eight men carrying them on their shoulders through a system of poles.
Why didn’t the people recognize the awesome blessing of the fruit and use it to counter the spy’s negative report? The answer is that like most things in life, two people can see or experience the same thing differently; one will be inspired, impressed and uplifted, while the other would be unimpressed, uninspired and even turned off.
Perhaps the story of the spies may give us an inkling why there is such a vast disparity between opinions.
Suppose these massive fruits were to have somehow been smuggled out of the land and placed on display before the Jews entering the Land. Certainly its evident blessing and bounty would have caused great energy, excitement and yearning to enter the land as quickly as possible.
However, first the spies explained that there were mighty and fierce giants inhabiting the land. Then they explained that to satisfy the consumption of these giants, the land’s fruit grew massive bounty.
The spy’s negative outlook swayed the people’s opinion negatively and thereby obstructed their ability to see the intrinsic blessing of the fruit. Maintaining a positive and objective disposition, facilitates recognition of the blessings that G-d presents to us, which ultimately help raise our consciousness of the spiritual realm as well.
Women are an example of this: Nothing the spies said was able to sway their firm belief in G-d’s promise to bring them into the land. Because of their steadfast belief, the women merited entering the land and were able to further recognize the great blessings that G-d bestows on the Land.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks