Toward the end of last week’s Parsha, Miriam is punished with leprosy after speaking badly about Moshe with Ahron. The Midrash explains that the siblings were badmouthing their brother for separating from his wife, Tzipora. In his commentary on the Sin of the Spies in this week’s Parsha, the Kli Yakar provides profound insight into this story, along with the unique role of women in the world.
“שְׁלַח-לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים, וְיָתֻרוּ אֶת-אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, אֲשֶׁר-אֲנִי נֹתֵן, לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל”
“Send for yourself men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.” (Numbers 13:2)
According to the 16th-century commentator, when God tells Moshe to send “for yourself,” he is reluctantly allowing Moshe to send whoever he wants, however he wants, to spy the land:
The men hated the land for they said ‘Let us turn around and return to Egypt,’ (Bamidbar 27:4) whereas the women loved the land, for they said ‘Give to us a holding’ in it. Therefore, the Holy One said, ‘From my perspective, it would have been better to send the women, who love the land, and would not speak ill of it.
Knowing human nature better than any One, God knows that Moshe will, of course, select twelve big, strong men on this most important mission. But is this the best choice? The Kli Yakar suggests that God is not merely criticizing Moshe for choosing to send spies, but also on his choice of representatives.
But what is it about the way in which women see the world that would have made a difference in this situation? Throughout their journey in the desert, the men are always complaining to each other and wondering if perhaps life would be simpler back in Egypt. It is the five bold daughters of Tzlefachad, however, who demand a place in the Promised Land.
“תְּנָה-לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אָבִינוּ”
“Give us a hold among the brethren of our father” (Numbers 27:4)
A man can never truly see the world through a woman’s eyes. While, of course, each individual – man or woman – has a unique perspective, the Kli Yakar seems to think that women see the world in a more pure, refined way than men.
Perhaps Miriam was so devastated that Moshe left his wife, because she knew that if he still had the clarity of the feminine voice in his life, he would understand that he needed to summon the greatest twelve women from the nation to scout out the land. And if he had, perhaps everything would have been different.
When they gazed out at the gorgeous hills and valleys of Eretz Yisrael, they would have seen the depth and spiritual beauty of the holy land. When they walked the dusty deserts and rocky landscapes, they would have felt their roots in the sacred soil between their toes. When they breathed the air around them, they would have intuited their eternal connection to this otherworldly place. When they tasted the fruits of the land, they would graciously internalize the gift that had been bestowed upon them.
When the women returned to the nation on a spiritual high, beaming with the glow of the Holy Land, the Children of Israel would have spent the night celebrating with gratitude to Hashem and excitement for their future. Just like after they crossed the sea, Miriam would have led the people in joyous singing and dancing. They would not have had to wander in the desert for forty years, and they would not have invited the destructive forces of Tisha B’Av into our history.
When we look at the tumultuous past and painful present of the Jewish people and humanity at large from this perspective, imagine we could all see the truth, that the world around us is a blessing from above, despite the challenges that come our way.
This is just a small portion of perspective, through the eyes of our most precious, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the Jewish People.