Once a year the High Priest would enter the holy of holies in the Temple, and there, say a prayer for the People of Israel, so we learn in this week’s daf yomi. We might think that he would stay there for a long while; finally! An opportunity to be alone soooo close to the Divine. But, if he stayed there for too long, the people might worry about him, and of all days, this is not the day to concern them with the possibility that something (bad) happened to him. He would utter a short prayer and come out again. What was his prayer? What would we say if we were in this high spot?? Maybe ask that the Messiah come; or, maybe, ask that there will world peace; or, may-be, that everybody will be “nice” and “kind” and “spiritual”… The high priest said just this:
“May it be Your will Hashem our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that this upcoming year will be on us and all your people Israel wherever they are, rainy if it was going to be dry; and let the prayers of the travelers not enter before you regarding the rain, while the rest of the world needs it; and may your people Israel not need each other and no other nation for their sustenance. May it be a year that no one would miscarry, and let the trees of the field bear their produce; and may governance not depart form the tribe of Judah”.
Not one word of “spirituality” but rather, fruits — of the womb and the trees; sustenance and rain at its time. The word for rain, by the way, geshem, is related to fulfilment, hitgashmut. Everything the high priest is asking for, is all for the people to be physically well. The idea is that without physical wellness, we can’t be spiritually well either. And, that we have to come to Hashem through the physical world, not by being close in a spiritual cave.
All this is somehow connected to this week’s Torah portion, where we encounter the spies and their mixed-up report about the Land which causes the 40-year delay in the desert. When we read it, we think we could have / would have done better, but maybe, we should first try to understand what are they scared of? Yes, I know, giants, walled cities and all. But they are going with G-d! who cares about all this? What they are worried about might be something much deeper. In the Land, they’ll have to be grounded; they will have to work on their relationship with Hashem through being settled on the Land; through growing trees, veggies, through having — or lacking — rain, and all this was beyond what they could do at that point. We who read it now, might want to go easy when criticizing them. Meeting G-d in the most physical parts of our life, is still, quite challenging.