Wednesday, June 28, 2017

RAV KOOK ON Shlach Part 2: Repairing the Sin of the Spies

One of the greatest tragedies in the long history of the Jewish people occurred when the spies sent by Moses returned with a frightening report about the Land of Israel. Their dire warnings of fierce giants and a “land that consumes its inhabitants” convinced the people that they would be better off returning to Egypt. Unlike other incidents in which the Israelites rebelled against God, on this occasion, Moses was unable to annul God’s decree. The entire generation died in the desert, never reaching the Promised Land. The best Moses was able to do was delay the punishment for forty years. Rav Kook wrote that even today we still suffer the consequences of this catastrophic error. The root cause for the exiles and humiliations of the Jewish people, throughout the generations, is due to our failure to correct the sin of the spies. How can we rectify the sin of the spies? To repair this national failure, a teshuvat hamishkal is needed, a penance commensurate with the sin which will “balance the scales.” The spies defamed the Land of Israel, as it says, “They despised the desirable land” (Psalms 106:24). We must do the opposite and show our unwavering love for the Land. “[We must] declare to the entire world [the Land’s] magnificence and beauty, its holiness and grandeur. If only we could express (with what may appear to us to be greatly exaggerated) even a ten-thousandth of the desirability of the beloved Land, the splendorous light of its Torah, and the superior light of its wisdom and prophecy! “The quality of wonderful holiness that Torah scholars seeking holiness may find in the Land of Israel does not exist at all outside the Land. I myself can attest to this unique quality, to a degree commensurate with my meager worth.” (Igrot HaRe’iyah, vol. I, pp. 112-113) For Rav Kook, this recommendation on how to address the sin of the spies was not just a nice homily. Stories abound of his burning love for the Land of Israel and his indefatigable attempts to encourage fellow Jews to move to Eretz Yisrael.

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