Torah Portion of the Week – Shelach – How to Recover from a Wrong Doing – Facing the New Reality without Depression– A Powerful Parable Two Sons – A Great Story about Rav Shach and Peace in Your Home – Fulfilling Your Partners Needs
The Torah Podcast Transcript
060 The Torah Podcast –How to Recover from a Wrongdoing – Facing the New Reality
Torah Portion of the Week – Shelach
We have the terrible story of the spies coming back from Eretz Yisroel, and speaking bad about Eretz Yisroel, and all the Jewish people falling into it. And from that came the decree that the Jews have to walk for 40 years in the desert while that whole generation dies off. And only then, they’re going to come to Eretz Yisroel. When the Jews heard that, what did they do? The possuk says, “They woke up early in the morning and ascended towards the mountaintop saying, ‘We are ready, and we shall ascend to the place at which Hashem has spoken, for we have sinned.’” So, here they are. They’re ready to repent, they’re coming back. What did Moses say to them? “Why do you transgress the word of Hashem. It will not succeed. Do not ascend, for Hashem is not with you. He’s not in your midst. And you will be wiped out by your enemies.”
The next verse says they were strong, they didn’t care. They went up anyway, and they got wiped out by the Amalekim and the Canaanim. They didn’t listen, and they got killed. So, first of all the Mesillas Yesharim explains, what was the sin of the spies themselves? Why did they speak loshen hara, evil speech about Eretz Yisroel? Because they didn’t want to go to Eretz Yisroel. He says, “This was brought upon them because they were afraid that their honor would be diminished by entering Eretz Yisroel, because they might be replaced as being leaders of the tribes. In other words, all these leaders had positions. That was while they were in the midbar, desert. But maybe when they come to Eretz Yisroel things are going to change, and they’d lose their positions. So, they didn’t want to go to Eretz Yisroel. So, because of those deep hidden feelings, they spoke badly about Eretz Yisroel. That was the sin of the spies themselves.
But the question now is, what was the sin of the Jewish people? It looks like they really wanted to return, they wanted to go and do the right thing. They wanted to enter into Eretz Yisroel and go fight the inhabitants that were there. So, what did they do wrong? Rav Wolbe explains that even though a person may want to return back to God and do teshuva, he wants to come back, but he doesn’t do it in the right way. He even sins on the way back, and that’s what happened here. The teshuva that Hashem desired was that they wander in the desert for 40 years. That was the decree. They didn’t want that. They wanted to do it their way, they wanted to go now. No, they didn’t go into Eretz Yisroel because we felt bad and we were scared – no, now we’re going to go. But who says that’s the right teshuva, answer? Who says the exact opposite, you do the exact opposite thing. That’s the right way to approach the problem.
For example, a man’s wife wants him to take her out and he doesn’t want to go, and he doesn’t go and they have a whole fight. At the end of the fight he says, “Okay, that’s it. Let’s go.” Who says that’s the teshuva? Maybe the teshuva is to stay at home and speak to her. Who knows what the right thing to do is? It’s not always what you think To do the exact opposite, that’s the way to fix it. And that’s what happened here to the Jewish people. They said, “Okay, now we’re going to go fight.” But that’s not what Hashem wanted. That’s why Moses said to him, “Why do you transgress the word of Hashem, it will not succeed. Do not ascend, Hashem’s not with you.” The teshuva wasn’t to do what they thought, the teshuva was to do the will of God. Therefore they sinned again, and they got wiped out. They all got killed.
The Ohr haChayim explains that this was an active rebellion, and it reflected the fact that they relied on themselves and not on God. Again, they were going to try on their own to go fight to enter Eretz Yisroel that they weren’t relying on God. So, that was the sin. This plan wasn’t approved by God. God wasn’t with them. And the Ramban brings the Ibn Ezra who says, “What does it mean, it will not succeed? This thing that you are doing, it will not succeed?” The Ibn Ezra says, “Transgressing the word of Hashem brings no success.” It doesn’t help to go against God. You may be trying to do the right thing, but if you’re trying to do the right against God it’s not going to work.
Rav Wolbe brings the famous Gemara Menachos 29B which I’ve spoken about many times before, that the world is created like a hey. You have like a roof and a side, two sides, and on top you have a little door and the bottom’s open. What does that mean? When a person sins, he goes out of the world, it’s like he goes down. Now that he wants to come back, he doesn’t come back in the same door. He has to crawl up the hey on the left-hand side to enter the door that’s going to be on his right, up on top. So, why is that? Because teshuva demands a new approach. It’s not the rehashing of the old approach, because after the person has sinned he’s in a new metzios, a new reality. So, now he has to behave in a new way. The situation’s different.
On this, Rav Dessler says, “Derech she adam rotzei leilech malichin oto,” the way that a man wants to go, Hashem lets him go. And that’s why the world’s shaped like a hey, you can do whatever you want in life. You can sin, you can steal, you can cheat, you can do whatever you want and God will let you do it. But when you do it, you’re going to wind up in a new reality. And that reality is totally different. It’s after the sin. There’s the reality before a person sins, and the reality after the person sins. After the person sins, the person has to deal with it in a new way. So, this could be depressing. In other words, we could dig holes for ourselves that are so deep we can never get out of them. How do we change things that we’ve messed up for years? And each time we mess up we go deeper into the hole, and the reality changes. We’re one rung down on the ladder each time. A person might think there’s no way, that’s it. I can’t return to God, I’m so far gone. How am I going to get back? How am I going to find my way?
You have to hear this beautiful chiddush, Torah thought, that Rav Wolbe brings. He brings the Seforno. The Seforno explains, “If you look in the possukim you’ll see that right after this whole thing happened and a part of the Jewish people got wiped out, so then Hashem added mitzvos. He added additional mitzvos. What did he add? A flour offering and a libation, a wine offering. So, the Seforno explains that these mitzvos were there to compensate for the sins that they did, that the person should feel close to Hashem. He gave us more mitzvos in order to bring us back. This is unbelievable. Rav Wolbe wants to explain and he says, “Because the Torah is eternal, it contains within it guidance needed to direct every individual, and every wrongdoing of Bnai Yisroel. In other words, the Torah came down with us. The Torah stepped down with them, and added a mitzvah for their benefit. So, no matter what our spiritual situation is, the Torah is still the answer. The Torah is still the refuah, the healing, because the Torah gives us direction no matter where we are. It doesn’t matter where we’re holding spiritually. We can always come back and look in the Torah and learn the Torah and listen to the chachamim and the Rabbis, and we’ll find our way back. What a beautiful idea. So, what is the way back? Back to what?
We see that the sin was that they didn’t listen to Hashem. And we find this yesod at the beginning of the Parsha, the Midrash says like this. “Nothing in this world is as beloved to Hashem as a sheliach mitzvah, the agent of a mitzvah.” People were sent on a mission to do a mitzvah. So, this the most beloved thing in front of Hashem. What does it mean, sent do to a mitzvah?
The Chiddushei HaRim explains, “Being a shaliach mitzvah means viewing oneself and living one’s life as an agent of God’s will.” We’re all sheluchim. Moshe sent sheluchim to Eretz Yisroel. Okay, they messed up except for Calev and Yehoshua. But Hashem sent us into this world to do something, we’re shiluchei of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We’re messengers of God. We’re agents of God. And this is where the purity comes in, and this is the tikkun. This is the teshuva. This is what we have to return to, to do things leshem shemayim, and get rid of our own personal trips and our own personal things. What happened there in there desert, we thought we could fix things up by just doing the opposite, it’s again listening to ourselves – not really listening to what God’s telling us. This is especially true when to come into Eretz Yisroel, because Eretz Yisroel, the Land of Israel is a holy place, and we have to be more on the ball, and more on a higher level, and more pure and holy.
Rav Noam Elimelech explains, What does it mean by “spied out the land”? He says a drosha, “It means your body, your physical part of you, you have to check out your physical desires. You have to make sure you’re not running after honor, and taivas, desires, and doing things as a sheliach mitzvah, as an agent of God. Two people can be doing the exact same thing, and one’s doing it leshem shemayim, and one’s not.
Shlomo HaMelech once encountered two men carrying a heavy stone. Shlomo asked them, “What are you doing?” One man replied, “I’m carrying a heavy stone,” and the other one said, “I’m building the Beis HaMigdash,” building the Temple. So, here you have the same exact peula, activity. The Mesillas Yesharim also speaks about it – the exact same action, and it’s judged as totally two different acts. Why? Because one person’s doing it leshem shemayim, he’s doing it for a mitzvah. He’s doing it for the right reasons. And the other person’s doing it for himself. He’s not even thinking about what he’s doing. We have to make ourselves agents of God. What we do, we do it leshem shemayim, but we have to check ourselves out. It takes a tremendous cheshbon hanefesh, a spiritual accounting, to make sure that what you’re doing is really leshem shemayim. I know in my own personal life, for years I thought I was doing the right thing, the way I was educating, the way I was doing this or that. And years and years went by, and then I realized I was doing the wrong thing. What do you do? You have to accept the reality, the new reality, the reality you created all those years, and then you have to find your way back.
Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch says, “Israel’s fate is directly shaped by God’s guidance. And it was the disregard of this truth which was the essence of the sin.” He wants to say, “This is why we’re giving nechasim, we have to bring flour, a fine flour offering, to realize that in Eretz Yisroel, that the obedience to God is the sun that fertilizes our fields, and brings us to victory. Yisroel’s fate in the land depends on its obedience to God, because here is a holy place, we’re closer to God. And the closer we are to God, the purer we need to be.
I want to end off with Rav Schwab who brings down no matter how far away a person still has a point of purity inside of himself. And he can always find his way back. He brings it from the Haftorah of this week’s Parsha. We know that when Calev and Yehoshua came to spy out the land, so there was this prostitute that helped them. The possuk says, “She let them down with a rope through the window, because her house was in the walls surrounding the city.” So, for 40 years it says this prostitute saw every man, every king, every prince. She was extremely beautiful. At the age of 50 years old she did teshuva, she repented. She was mitgayer, she became Jewish. She said before God, “I sinned before You with three things. With a rope, a window and a wall. Please forgive me.” So, Rav Schwab asks, “What do you mean, she sinned with a rope, a window and a wall? This woman was doing who knows what. She had no bousha, no shame at all. People were coming in straight through the front door, they were going out the front door. So, what does it mean, ‘she sinned with a rope and a window and a wall?’” He wants to explain that teshuva, returning to God comes from the deepest part of a human being, the tzelem Elokim, the image of God inside every human being. She said, “I sinned through this way, because there were some people who were embarrassed to come in the front door. So, I used to let them in through the window with the rope,” because she was sensitive to these people who were embarrassed to come to a prostitute. And therefore, the repentance was from the deepest part of her being, how she helped these people who were embarrassed to come in.” So too, inside very single one of us there’s a part of purity, a point, the nekudelah Yid, the point of holiness inside every human being. From there a person is pure. From there, a person is doing a sheliach mitzvah. He does everything leshem Shemayim, he’s an agent of God. And from there we can all come back with a pure heart.
A Powerful Parable
The verse says, “If Hashem desires us, He will bring us to the land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey.” The Maggid Mi Dubno explains, “One time there were two neighbors who didn’t have any children. So, both the men decided to go to this big tzaddik, a holy man, and get a blessing. They traveled a big distance, they cried in front of him. He blessed them that each of them would have a son next year, and that’s what happened. But he said to them before they left, “In three years, come back to me. I want to speak to you again.” Each one comes back with their boys, they’re all happy. They show the tsaddik their boys, and he blesses them.
To one of them he blesses, “This boy should become a big talmid chacham, a big Torah scholar.” And the other one he blesses, he says, “Listen, he’s going to be materialistic. He’s going to be a businessman.” As they boys got older, they saw just the opposite. The one that was blessed to be a talmid chacham he didn’t want to learn at all, and the one who was going to be a businessman, he’s sitting and learning all day. What’s going on? So, the father of the boy who was running around like a wild Indian, he went back to the tsaddik and he says, “Listen, you blessed my son to be a talmid chacham, and I see that he’s just running around. And the other boy that you said is going to be a businessman, he’s sitting and learning.” The tsaddik says to him, “Tell me about your children.” He explains to him, “We hired this Rebbe, unbelievable Rebbe, and he gives out candies all days to the boys. My kid, he doesn’t like candies. He throws the candies away, and then he runs outside. The other boy loves candies. He got him to sit and learn, and now he’s sitting and learning.
The tsaddik started to laugh. He said, “It’s true. The other boy who’s sitting and learning, that’s because he likes candy which means I was right, he’s materialistic. He’s into this world. And that’s why he’s learning. But you see, as he grows up at a certain point he’s going to drop it. He’s going to leave learning and run after the pleasures of this world. Your son who throws the candies away, that’s just now. But after he comes to appreciate the beauty and see the light inside of the learning, he’s going to sit his whole life in learning, and become a big talmid chacham.” That was the moshul, parable, what’s the nimshal, conclusion?
Eretz Yisroel. It says that Eretz Yisroel is the land of milk and honey, so the Jews were attracted to it because it was such a great place, a beautiful place, a warm place. You can feel the beauty here. But what happened? As time went on, that’s why the Jews wound up being exiles, because they came for the wrong reasons. They came because of the warm weather and the beauty, and all the fruits and everything that grows here. But in the end, what will happen? Hashem is going to take away the yetzer hara of people, and then they’re really going to appreciate Eretz Yisroel for the spirituality of it. Like the verse says, “I will plant them on their land and they shall no longer be uprooted from their land.”
Great Stories – Rav Shach
The verse 15:31 says, “That soul will surely be cut off.” It’s talking about a person who does sins bemaizid, with intention. He intentionally sins. If you look in the possuk it says, “He’ll be cut off,” twice. “Yikoreis tikoreis.” The Gemara in Sanhedrin explains that means, he’s not only cut off from the blessings of this world but he’s also cut off from the blessings in the next world. Rav Shach one time told the Brisker Rav that he has a proof for such an idea. We know that everybody agrees there’s a God in the world. The whole world holds there’s a God, and God controls the world. We saw six million Jews die, and tens of millions of other people die. And who did this? Hitler. He killed millions of people. And he desolated his own nation in the end, he lost the war. How did he die? He was in a bunker hiding, and he killed himself. Some people say he didn’t kill himself, he would up in Argentina somewhere and he lived a happy life, and he died. So, how could it be that this person who caused so much damage died in a peaceful way? The only way to explain it is to say there’s punishment after death. And if a person sins, he gets cut off in this world and in the next.
Peace in Your Home
Rav Simcha Cohen speaks about fulfilling your partner’s needs. We know that partners test each other. They want to know if the other one really loves them and really appreciates them. Sometimes, it comes as a very silly thing, that the person asks the other partner to do something which one feels is ridiculous. Why is he asking me to do that? Why is she asking me to do this thing? They don’t understand, and they don’t want to do it. He says, “That’s a big mistake. One partner will say, ‘Why are you fussing over something so insignificant?’ The wife says, “I spend hours cooking your meals, washing your clothes, visiting your parents. You don’t think that I love you?” “Yeah, but…” he says, “I asked you to do this one thing for me, and you didn’t do it.” So, what is this petty and trivial and childish behavior?
Rav Yisroel Salanter says, “No, it’s not childish, it’s not trivial.” There’s a famous saying of Rav Yisroel Salanter, “Your friend’s gashmius is your ruchnius.” Your friend’s physical needs are your spiritual work. If a person feels that they need something, you should give it to them. And that’s called chessed. Ah, you feel the person’s not leshem shemayim, they’re doing it because they’re greedy, or because they’re arrogant? It doesn’t matter. The point is to fulfill their needs, because they have a need. But what happens? One spouse says, “Why should I praise that person? They’re just arrogant.” Yeah, but they need praise. Or a woman says, “Why should I cook him such a big meal, he’s just a baal taivah, he just loves food.” But that’s what he needs, so give it to him. Or silly things – a husband wants his wife to make him a sandwich before he leaves. He wants her to make it. Or the woman wants her husband to sit with her while she eats. So, you’ll say, “It’s petty. What’s the point? You could make the sandwich yourself. Or, you can sit, we’ll talk later. I have to sit with you specifically when you eat?”
He says, “No, because each person has their particular way of how they feel loved, of how they feel cared for. If you don’t do that, you’re going to wind up with big troubles later down the line.” But what happens? One spouse keeps repeating, “Please do this for me, please do this for me.” Another one keeps refusing, because they can’t understand what’s going on, it’s so trivial, it’s so stupid. “What do they want me to do this for? They say the other person’s just lazy. “Why should I help them, why should I help them continue in their bad behavior?” But the answer is, “aino chinami,” it’s true, you’re right. They’re silly, they’re arrogant, they’re childish. But maybe that’s what they learned in their house.
Every time the father came home, the mother gave a big smile and a greeting to the father. “Ah, Abba’s here.” In her house, that didn’t happen. The father walked in the door, “Hi, how are you doing?” and that’s it. No, but that means love to him. That’s what he understands. That’s what her husband saw in his house, and that’s what means love to him, so he needs that. But on her side, she just feels uncomfortable doing that, giving a big “hello,” a big smile every time her husband walks in the house. She didn’t see that from her mother, but that’s not the point. This is what her husband needs.
Or even if he wants his wife to make a sandwich, a small sandwich for him to go learn, she rationalizes, “Why make him a small sandwich, it’s stupid. I’ll make him a big meal when he comes home,” but he doesn’t want a big meal. The big meal doesn’t mean love to him. The small sandwich means love to him. Or a husband just redid the entire kitchen in his house and the wife says, “You don’t love me.” Why? Because he didn’t bring me flowers on Shabbos. But he says, “I just spent $25,000 fixing up the kitchen.” “Yeah, but you don’t love me because you didn’t buy me flowers.” What does that mean? It sounds stupid. It sounds ridiculous. Aino chinami it is, but she feels the love from the flowers. She feels the love from the candy that she wants, that he should buy her on the way home. “I just bought her a kitchen.” So what, that doesn’t mean anything to her. Or she cares more that he gives her a smile, and is nice to her than the fact that he just bought her a new car.
There was a famous story around the time one of Rav Yisroel’s talmidim came to him and said, “No matter what I give my wife, she’s not happy.” He says to her, “Evidently you are giving her what you want to give her, but you’re not giving her what she wants.” The possuk says, “Poseach es yadecha umasbiah lekol chai ratzon,” You open your hand and satisfy every living thing with its desire. God gives us what we need, not what He wants to give us. He gives us what we need. So, we also have to act that way. What do we do instead? We say, “No, you’re like that because you come from a Polish home. You’re like that because you’re Moroccan,” but so what? It’s true. It might be true, she came from a Polish home and that’s how she is, or she’s Moroccan, that’s how she is. But that’s what she needs, that’s what she’s used to. That’s what she wants. Or she says, “Oh, you only want that thing because you saw it at your friend’s house.” So, you’re right, I saw it at my friend’s house and I would like it. The advice is, give your spouse what they need, even if it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t have to make sense. The point is, they feel loved.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Torah podcast. Please share it with your friends, and please leave some comments on iTunes.