I have just returned Home from a visit to the United States. During this short trip, I met people of all stripes.
I feel that in general, people are inherently good and want only the best for themselves and their loved ones. I enjoy meeting people for the first time and finding common denominators about which to converse.
Within the Jewish community, I was particularly inspired by the sheer number of people desiring to come “Home”. The pandemic and closing of borders has kindled the longing for our Land.
Some people wish to come for a visit, others are interested in buying real estate and there are more than a few who are seriously discussing aliyah.
The common thread: a love and longing to connect to Eretz Yisrael. In any way whatsoever.
There can be no better way to approach Parshat Shelach than experiencing the palatable thirst of Jews wanting to attach themselves to our Home.
The meraglim all started out as good, upstanding people. Their downfall began when they lost the vision and understanding of the essence of Eretz Yisrael. When God promised us this Land He included His unique protection for us there. Yes, there would be challenges and yes, if we would persevere we would see how special and unique Eretz Yisrael and merit the blessings within.
The mistake and ultimate sin of the spies was not appreciating the role of Eretz Yisrael in the establishment and foundation of the nation. They were concerned that the high spiritual level reached in the desert would suffer with the physical work demanded in conquering and settling the Land.
How could they trade the protection by the Clouds of Glory for weapons of battle? Would the spiritual sustenance represented by the Manna now be replaced with produce farmed by hand?
Rather than inspire and encourage the people, the meraglim chose to disparage the Land and cast doubt in the ability to possess it and the level of holiness within.
They just didn’t get the relationship between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel.
That fruit grown in the soil of Eretz Yisrael, lovingly harvested by a Jewish farmer and properly tithed and maasered, reaches a level of holiness far beyond the manna itself.
Because they didn’t grasp the connection they chose to belittle the land.
What should have been joy and anticipation turned to sadness and mourning. So much so that the unjustified crying was the catalyst for centuries of justified mourning on Tisha B’av.
As the Talmud in Sanhedrin relates, the Jewish people cried for nothing on that Tisha B’av in the desert. God therefore gave us what to cry for in the generations to come.
For 2000 years the events that led to the first tears of Tisha B’av in the desert have been overshadowed by real pain and suffering of galut.
As Rav Kook teaches, to a Jew, Eretz Yisrael is not simply a Jewish Disney world or even just a land of Jews.
Eretz Yisrael is part and parcel of the essence of each member of our people.
The “Dibat Ha’aretz” (disparaging words) of the meraglim and their acceptance by most of the nation was an attack on our foundation and an affront to the special covenant between HaShem and His people.
Hence the seriousness of the baseless mourning.
Our generation has the opportunity to counter the words and actions of the meraglim with the realization of the ingathering of the exiles and the opportunity to praise, support, visit and resettle the Land.
Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi said לִבִּי בְמִזְרָח וְאָנֹכִי בְּסוֹף מַעֲרָב. No matter where they find themselves physically, the heart and soul of a Jew should be drawn toward the Land.
I return home encouraged by the wonderful Jews that I met with in the disapora. Jews who might physically be in Chutz La’aretz but whose hearts beat with the love of our Land.
Unlike their ancestors the meraglim, these wonderful people speak highly of Eretz Yisrael and eagerly await the opportunity to come.
The galut is rooted in the negativity spoken about Eretz Yisrael by the meraglim. May the yearning and desire for our nation to return to our home bring the end to suffering and the Geula Shleima.