Parshas Shelach

You Have The Power! Use It Wisely!

“However, the nation is mighty, those who inhabit the land, and the cities are greatly fortified to the utmost, and we also saw the offspring of the giant over there (Bamidbar 13:28).”

Bnei Yisroel, the Jewish People, were freed from Egypt and were on their way to enter Eretz Yisroel. They wanted to send spies to see the Land and its people. Moshe agreed and chose 12 men, one man from each tribe. Moshe instructed the spies as to what to look for.

The spies returned with the information that Moshe had requested. However, when the spies gave their report, they sinned terribly. That caused the Jewish people to become discouraged and dispirited.  The Jews felt that it would be impossible to enter Eretz Yisroel because the people who lived there were too strong and the climate was too harsh. The entire night, the Jews cried in despair. For showing a lack of faith in Hashem, the Jews were punished. They had to wander for 40 years in the desert before entering Eretz Yisroel. There is a discussion amongst the commentaries as to the exact sin of the spies.

Ramban (Bamidbar 13:27) explains that the spies reported exactly what they were supposed to. They said that Eretz Yisroel flowed with milk and honey. They brought samples of the fruit, which were huge. They said, as they were supposed to, that the people who dwell in the Land were fierce and that the cities were fortified. What was the sin of the spies?  They added just one word to their report- “אפס”, “efes”, “however”. That word went beyond the facts. It expressed their opinion that as wonderful as Eretz Yisroel was, it was unconquerable. It would be impossible to fight against the people because they are fierce, and the cities are impregnable!

HaRav Henach Leibowitz zt”l (Chidushei Lev by Rabbi Binyomin Luban) says that it seems from the Ramban that is was solely the added word “efes” that placed fear and despair into the hearts of the Jews. Had the spies not added the word “efes”, then their mission would have been 100% successful and the Jews would have entered Eretz Yisroel immediately. The Jews would not have been afraid, despite hearing that the people living in Eretz Yisroel were strong, their cities were heavily fortified, and that giants lived there, as well as the feared nation of Amalek.

Chizkuni (Bamidbar 13:28) adds that in Parshas Devarim (9:2) Moshe reminded the new generation of Jews, who were about to enter Eretz Yisroel, that they had heard about the fearsome giants whom their parents described as invincible. Ohr Chaim adds that the nations who lived in Eretz Yisroel did not only dwell in towns but were scattered all over the land. In other words, they were not afraid of being attacked. Despite all this, the Jews would not have been afraid! They would have had total trust and faith that Hashem could conquer the land for them.  Hashem had already performed countless miracles for the Jews in Egypt, by the splitting of the sea, and in the desert, miraculously providing food and water. Yet, by hearing the spies say “efes”, “however”, which inferred that Hashem was incapable of defeating the mighty nations in Eretz Yisroel, the Jews fell from their high level of faith in Hashem. They became fearful. In despair they cried bitterly the entire night, and they wanted to return to Egypt.

We see a powerful lesson from this. The power of 1 word! One word, even when only indirectly hinting to a problem, can have such an impact to influence us! It lowered the strong faith of an entire nation, turning their faith into denial of Hashem’s ability!

Even one word that we say to ourselves can influence us! Calev was one of the two spies who tried to convince Klal Yisroel that Hashem was indeed capable of defeating the powerful nations who lived in Eretz Yisroel. Hashem praised Calev’s loyalty, “My servant Calev, because he possessed in him a different spirit, and followed Me fully, I shall bring him into the land to which he came….” (Bamidbar 14:24). Rashi explains that Calev was filled with a twofold spirit — the one in which he spoke, and another which he concealed in his heart. To the spies he said, “I am with you in your counsel”, while in his heart he had the intention to tell the truth. That is why Calev was able to silence the people since they thought that he would say the same message as the spies.

It seems, according to Rashi, that Hashem was not praising Calev for fooling the spies and saying the truth. Rather, Calev was praised because he said one thing while feeling something else in his heart. What was so special about that? Rabbi Avraham Trop zt”l explains that Calev was praised for his ability not to be influenced by his own words which indicated that he agreed with the spies. Normally, one’s words are so powerful that they affect one’s thoughts and feelings, even if one does not truly believe them in his heart! That is why Calev was praised, for having the strength to overcome his natural instinct.

We see from this the power of 1 word! Words we hear influence us, even if they only hint to a message. We must be so careful not to listen to, or say anything, that is contrary to the Torah way.

Our own words also influence us.

They can also put us into a state of depression or uplift our spirits.

We should “build” ourselves by using “positive self-talk”.