Topic: Kabbalistic Concepts | Posted:June 10, 2015
The portion of Shlach Lecha is the famous discussion of the spies. The Creator says to Moses, “Send people and they should go into the Land of Canaan,” and Moses commands them to go look at the land. They come back and give a negative report, and we know that this negative report created all kinds of darkness; the Israelites had to stay in the desert for 40 more years because of it. So we really have to understand what it is the spies did that was so wrong, and, therefore, what it is we need to learn for own lives from it.
The Rambam, Maimonides, when he begins the discussion of this week’s portion, asks a very practical question: what did the spies do wrong? Moses said to them, “Look at the land, see how good it is, and see if the people living on the land are strong or weak.” He asked them to find out how many people are there, and how they live. And the spies came back and answered Moses’ questions. Did Moses send them to come back and lie to him? He asked them very clearly to go find out about the land, and they came back and told him the truth; they did exactly what he asked of them. So, what was the problem?
One of the first lessons we have to learn from this is about the danger of being right; usually the greatest fall, the greatest mistake, is when we’re right, like the spies were. Everything they came back and said was right. But what they forgot is that even when you’re right, you have to leave an opening for the Light of the Creator.
If you ask the spies what their job was, they’d say, “Our job is to go into the land of Israel, and as Moses told us, see what kind of land it is, see the people who are living there, see how well protected their cities are, etc.” But the Kedushat Levi says that that was not really their purpose. He says the main purpose for which the Creator sent the spies was not, as they thought and even as they heard, to look at the physicality of the land. Their entire work was spiritual work. The Creator told Moses to send spiritual people to go there to pray and study, and through their spiritual work, awaken Light from the Upper Worlds to flow down into the physical land of Israel; as such, the land would then desire for all Israelites to enter, and their entry would be peaceful and perfect.
So, we see here that there are two things going on. There is what the spies thought their job was, and there is what their job really was… and we see that the two were completely opposite. They believed, and the physical story let them believe, that their job was to look at the land and people and come up with plans and ideas, when really their job was to pray, study, and awaken Light. And that awakening would have made the land desire the Israelites to enter into it. But because they were sure they knew what their job was, they messed it all up. And because they did what they thought they were supposed to do, they stayed for 40 years in the desert, and as the kabbalists teach us, the exile that we’re still in stems from that mistake.
If we think about it, we make this mistake all the time. We are so sure we have a certain clear idea about what we are meant to do. But what we have to become awakened to from this portion is that chances are what we think we’re supposed to do has nothing to do with what we are actually supposed to do, and if we are bound to what we think we are meant to do, not only will it take us longer to figure it out or to do the right thing, but we will also mess everything up.
So, with this perspective, if we went to the spies while they were praying Shacharit in a rush, and asked them - “Why are you in a rush? Don’t you think you should reveal Light?” They’d say, “Yes, it’s important to reveal Light every morning, but Moses and God sent us here for a very important job. We have to go out and look at the cities. We can’t waste too much time in prayers or studies.” And we would see that they put little time and emphasis on what their job really was in those 40 days, focusing instead on what they thought they were told to do. And because of that, they died. Because of that, they forced the Israelites to be in the desert for 40 years, and we’re all still paying for that mistake.
If you think about this for a moment, you realize how dangerous it is to think that we know what we’re supposed to do.
Because the spies “knew” what their job was, they did the best physical spying job they could. However, they completely disregarded the idea of awakening Light in the land, which was the real purpose of their journey. It is that opening of darkness that still affects us every single day. Every day when we wake up and plan or think we know what we need to do, and we get upset or bothered when it doesn’t work out, then we are a spy. Every time we’re disturbed by somebody upsetting what we are so sure we need to do, we are a spy. Every single time we forget that chances are what we need to be doing is not what we think we’re doing, we are a spy. And thus, we perpetuate darkness and exile.
The great understanding to take away from this portion is to, every morning, wake up with clarity that there’s a very good chance what we think we’re supposed to be doing is not what we’re supposed to be doing that day; we have to be open all the time to this idea that what we think we’re supposed to be doing today, this month, this year, is completely wrong. If we stay open to that, then we will be revealing Light, and the way we show that we have this clarity, this certainty, is if we don’t get upset when things mess up our plans or when people do things that upset our plans. And then if we have clarity that our plan is probably not the right one, we have no anger or lack of joy when it doesn’t work out.
Only the Creator knows the plan and reveals it to those who merit it, but not through wisdom, thought, or planning. Rav Ashlag says that when the Creator sees that a person is simple in his connection, in that he does not have great plans for himself, only then is he given permission to enter and see the great secrets of the Creator. Therefore, one of the great lessons the spies teach us in this portion of Shlach Lecha is that if we completely disregard all of our plans and all of our logic, then the Creator will show us the truth of what we are meant to be doing.