14:33 And your children shall be wanderers in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your strayings, until you all die in the wilderness.
Reb Chaim Zaichik asks “Why was the sin of the spies so severe, that not only did it cause all those who sinned to die in the desert, but it also caused all of Klal Yisrael – even those who did not sin – to remain another 40 years in the desert?” He answers this with an important concept about the holiness of Jews and the holiness of the land of Israel in particular.
About two weeks ago I was at a wedding in Mitzpeh Yericho, overlooking the Jordan Valley, and I was able to see Jordan on the other side. The city of Jericho was to my left and Jewish settlements were in front of me. I was struck by a thought mentioned in the Tochacha that Hashem will not let the land of Israel be harnessed by non-Jews. All of the lush cultivation was Jewish, and the rest of the area was barren in comparison. This me to think about another maamar chazal based on a pasuk that if Jews do not live in the Land of Israel as they should, the land will expel them.
Rabbi Zaichik quotes a medrash in Shmuel II that tells us that the woman of Shunam built an attic for Elisha. She did this because Elisha’s holy countenance was so great and intense that there were people who died when they saw him! Hence it was necessary to keep Elisha in quarantine. We find a similar gemara that says that when Moshiach will come, Hashem will take the sun out of its sheath and righteous ones will be healed by it, and evildoers will perish by it. People on different levels are affected by the same things in different ways. Recently, someone asked me to listen to a recording, and I heard nothing. When my child heard the same recording, he heard something. It was explained to me that people over age 35 can’t hear this particular sound but people under 35 are able to hear this sound.
Says Rabbi Zaichik: “After sinning with the spies, Klal Yisrael became lowered to a level that if they were to enter the Land of Israel at that time, tragedies would befall them – and they would be ‘spit out’. It was necessary for them to go through a course of self-improvement to bring them back to the level that they would be able to harness the Land of Israel. However, those who sinned to a greater degree, did not have the ability of rectifying their wrong sufficiently to allow them to enter, and therefore they had to die.”
As we continue to wonder why we were thrown out of our shuls and batei midrashim, and we look for ways to re-secure our place there, I think the message from this week’s parsha is to bring ourselves to a level so that our personal lives are a little more congruent with that which the shul demands of shul goers. We have to be people who are fit to be in shul. The spies made a mistake of saying “we cannot do it”. However, we know that we can do it. I have confidence that we will be successful in bringing about a sanctification of G-d’s holy name by being worthy to return and stay in His house.