A Torah Thought for Parashat Shelach
By Moshe Feiglin
The Torah portion of Shlach Lecha is the story of the tragedy of the Israeli nation. We are the nation that G-d created to herald a new message to humanity; the message of liberty and faith. “I have created this nation for Me, they will tell my praises.” No more slavery to an idol and its crafter, no more servitude to other people; we are all free under the wings of the One G-d, Who reigns supreme.
Since Abraham, heralding the message and rectifying the world is in our genes. If we are not rectifying the world in the Name of G-d, then we are doing it in the name of Communism, Socialism, Liberalism or Atheism. Jews are always dominant in revolutions, or if you will, in rectifications.
Throughout history, we have been progressing along this journey to liberty. Abraham smashes the idols, leaves the slavery of idolatry for the liberty of faith in the One G-d and goes to the Land of Liberty – the Land of Israel. His descendants, Isaac and Jacob are chosen by G-d to be his successors – those who will continue his work and fashion a nation that bears a message.
Jacob’s family is enslaved in the Egyptian crucible until the time comes to emerge from slavery to freedom and herald the message of liberty. This time, as a nation.
But in the interim stage between the theoretical holy dimension – the desert stage – and the practical dimension, a great crisis takes place. It is the stage where the Nation of Israel had to begin to pour holiness into the mundane, soul into body, to leave the desert and enter the Land of Israel. It is the stage where the Nation of Israel had to begin to create a national life never seen before in the world; a real life with a strong economy, an army, agriculture, industry, politics, transportation, rich and poor. All of this had to be done with G-d palpably in our midst. By developing this type of national life we strive to elevate all the nations of the world to a new experience. But that is precisely where the bubble bursts.
Humanity expects to hear this message from us and is angered when we deny it: “We established a state for you, because we dreamt of a place where the new Book of Books would be written as a preface to the redemption of the world. For you are a treasured nation. We had great expectations, and look what you have done.” (British intellectuals, quoted in Makor Rishon). This denial of our identity and our message is the most deep and elementary reason for anti-Semitism and the never-ending wars.
The Nation of Israel stands at the threshold of the Land of Israel and takes the advice of ten of the twelve greatest men of the generation and chooses what we would call today the ultra-Orthodox way of life. Israel chooses to remain in the holy dimension of the desert and to forgo national sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The punishment is terrible: Total elimination of that generation. Is that fair? What was their sin? Why were they punished more severely than for the Golden Calf? After all, they listened to their rabbis!
The point is that the death of that generation in the desert was not a punishment at all. When they abstained from entering the stage of actualizing their holiness in the Land, they sealed their own fate – just like a driver who insists on going over a cliff. He is not punished; he has simply created a reality in which he cannot continue. When the time comes to continue on to the next stage of actualization of Israel’s destiny, those who deny it become irrelevant and they have no more place in reality (a synonym for G-d).
It did not end with the Sin of the Spies. Historically, every time that the Nation of Israel had the chance to return to the Land of Israel, they chose not to do so. The most obvious example is the invitation of Her Majesty’s government to the Jews in the 1920s to ascend and to establish in Israel a national home on both banks of the Jordan. “Nation of Israel, Where are You?” is the name of the chapter in the historical documentary ‘Pillar of Fire’ that chronicles that era. We are all too familiar with the horrendous result.
Today, most of the Nation of Israel is in the Land of Israel. Where is the next stage of progression toward our destiny? This stage is easy to identify. The threshold of the next stage is the place where most of Israel’s major rabbis oppose the next step. At this stage, terrible fear always grips the entire public: “If we continue on toward our destiny and realize it, there will be a world war here.”
But reality is always just the opposite: Without destiny, there is no existence! Giving up on realizing our destiny costs us dearly. This denial of our progress toward our destiny makes the justification for our existence on the plane that had been previously achieved – extraneous. The State of Israel rapidly loses the legitimacy for its existence and missiles begin to explode in Tel Aviv.
The next stage- for those who did not understand, is the restoral of the Nation of Israel’s complete sovereignty over the Temple Mount. This is the Promised Land, longing for our return – now.