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Dictates of the Heart

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

In Parshat Sh’lach, the spies return from the Land of Israel to report to Moshe, Aharon, and the congregation of Israel. Calev, one of the spies, senses that his colleagues are attempting to frighten the nation by mentioning the Amalekites. Calev silences the nation and turns their attention to Moses as is stated: “Calev silenced the people to Moses…” (Numbers 13:30)

Chizkuni and Sforno explain that Moshe now turns to the people and says: “…Do not be broken or afraid of them. The Lord, your God, Who goes before you He will fight for you, just as He did for you in Egypt before your very eyes…” (Deuteronomy 1:29-30) Calev follows Moses’s word by saying: “We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

The spies then continued their evil report convincing the nation that they could not defeat the inhabitants of the Land of Israel. The nation believed the words of others over the words of Moshe, our teacher. The results of this error were devastating—their entry into the Promised Land was delayed by 40 years and all men older than 20 years old perished before entering the land. Our sages explain that the night the nation complained and cried was the ninth day of the month of Av. This day became a day of tragedy for the Jewish People with the destruction of both Temples and many other tragedies.

Moshe, Aharon, Calev, and Yehoshua all supported the move towards the Promised Land. Even though Moshe reminds them of how Hashem has guarded, guided, and protected them continuously, they still choose to believe the narrative of the spies. Why did the nation choose to follow the spies? I would like to suggest a simple, yet profound answer based on the account of this event at the beginning of the Book of Deuteronomy. Moshe records how the spies came back with their report and states: “But you did not want to go up, and you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, your God.” (Deuteronomy 1:26)

The nation felt comfortable in their situation. They were being asked to enter a new chapter of existence in the Land of Israel. If they could have simply walked into an uninhabited land and settled in comfort, they would have gladly obliged. Realizing the immense challenge ahead of them (including having to engage in war to conquer the land from the local inhabitants), they no longer wanted to enter the Land of Israel. When one’s heart wants something, one builds a philosophical framework to support one’s core desire. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we often do the very same thing. What the heart wants may be the most powerful determinant in human behavior. Let us train our hearts to want to do the will of Hashem, even when this requires great effort and moving out of our comfort zones! Shabbat Shalom.