An Encouraging Lesson
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
The spies return from the Land of Israel with a negative report, leaving the people demoralized. The Torah records their reaction: “The entire community raised their voices and shouted, and the people wept on that night. All the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the entire congregation said, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this desert. Why does the Lord bring us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be as spoils. Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?’” (Numbers 14, 1-3) God decreed that all men between the ages of twenty and sixty would perish in the desert over the next forty years and would not enter the Land of Israel.
Following this, the Torah states: “The Lord spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: ‘When you arrive in the Land of your dwelling place, which I am giving you…’ and proceeds to instruct the nation concerning the details of the temple offerings…” The detailed instructions seem out of place and disconnected from the narrative. Many commentators (including Ramban, Da’as Zkeininm, and Ohr Hachaim) explain that God saw that His decree had left the people disheartened and unconvinced that they would ever enter the Land of Israel. Therefore, He instructs them concerning the detailed laws of the offerings, leaving them with the sense that He, Himself, is convinced they will enter the land (giving the nation the confidence that they will enter the Land of Israel).
There are numerous lessons we can glean from this narrative. We will focus on just one simple lesson. We are commanded to follow in God’s ways. God comforts and strengthens a demoralized people by giving them hope of a brighter future. We are, therefore, duty-bound to fill others (and ourselves) with hope and encouragement for a better tomorrow. The sin of the spies was that they caused others to lose hope and faith. The correction of the sin of the spies is to fill others with hope, encouragement, and positivity.
When we fill ourselves and others with optimism, we are spiritually much more likely to manifest positive outcomes in our lives. The story is told of a man who came to the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Chabad Rebbe, begging him to pray on behalf of his child who was seriously ill. The Tzemach Tzedek replied: “Tracht gut vet zein gut,” think good and it will be good. Let us work on thinking good, helping others to think good (which itself is good), and this will manifest good for everyone!