From Insights and Inspirations
Published by the Ra’anana Community Kollel
Ra’anana Community Kollel
Living in the Land
Rabbi Dovid Horwitz
This week’s parshah recounts the tragic sin of the spies who delivered a description of the land of Israel riddled with negativity and despair. However, there were two spies, Yehoshua and Calev who, despite the fact that they witnessed the same sights as the rest of the group, came back with a very positive report of Eretz Yisrael. How is it possible for two groups of people to observe the same set of facts and interpret them so differently?
We don’t have to search far for the answer. Ask many Jews in the Diaspora about making aliyah and they will come up with an array of reasons why it is not practical for them to move to Israel. Perhaps they are fearful of living here under the present Israeli-Arab conflict, or perhaps it is because of the challenging financial situation that many find themselves in once they move here. In short, there is no difficulty in finding fault with life in Eretz Yisrael.
Now ask a Jew who has made aliyah why he is living here. He might mention the spiritual fulfillment that he has in performing the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. He is not deterred by the security risks or financial hardships. How could it be that the Jew in the Diaspora and the Jew living here have such different outlooks on life in the Holy Land?
Who is right and who is wrong? Was the report of the spies accurate or were Yehoshua and Calev correct? The answer, I believe, is that from an outsider’s perspective, the spies and the Jew in the Diaspora are correct. It is truly difficult to live in Israel. If one who is living in Chutz La’aretz weighs up the pros and cons of moving to Israel, he will probably discover that the cons outweigh the pros. Surely, the spies saw the good of the land as well. What was the most convincing drawback that cancelled out the entire positive? Rashi says that the spies saw the inhabitants of the land dying in frightening numbers. They were left with an impression that it is dangerous to live in Eretz Yisrael! Didn’t Yehoshua and Calev also see the people dying? Surely they did. Why then were they not swayed to speak negatively of Eretz Yisrael? It is because Yehoshua and Calev already viewed Eretz Yisrael as their home. No home is perfect, but if it is a home, then the one living in it will tend to overlook and downplay the negative elements because he feels close to and at one with his home. The stronger the relationship, the more one overlooks the negative. The spies did not look upon Eretz Yisrael as their home and therefore they looked at the land with total objectivity and their report reflected this. Yehoshua, Calev, and we, who live in Eretz Yisrael look at Eretz Yisrael as home, despite the hardships. Just as we tend to overlook and to forgive our children’s faults because we love them deeply, so do we overlook and forgive Eretz Yisrael’s challenges. Tosafot writes that there is no mitzvah to move to Eretz Yisrael today because it is difficult to fulfill all of the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael properly. In other words, a person does not have to move to Israel if it is too difficult. Nevertheless, a person already living here is not allowed to move to Chutz La’aretz. The reason is because certain difficulties only seem to be insurmountable when looking at them from across the ocean. Once a person is already living in Israel he might find that those difficulties that prevent so many people in Chutz La’aretz from moving here are not really so formidable after all. Looking around at all of the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael today, irrespective of what head covering they wear or what holidays they choose to observe, it is clear that Baruch Hashem, Yehoshua’s and Kalev’s approach has indeed triumphed over that of the spies.