Reaching New Spiritual Heights

In Devarim 1:22 we are reminded of the sin of the spies. Moshe recounts: “Vatikrevun elai kulchem…”, “All of you approached me and said: ‘Let us send men ahead of us and let them spy out the Land and bring word back to us: the road on which we should ascend and the cities to which we should come.’”


Here we see that B’nai Yisrael approached Moshe in a negative way, showing a lack of trust in God.


A few chapters later, Devarim 5:20, after Moshe repeated the Ten Commandments to B’nai Yisrael he reminded them: “It happened that when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness and the mountain was burning in fire, that all of the heads of your tribes and your elders approached me- Vatikrevun elai kol roshei shivteichem vezikneichem. They said ‘Behold! Hashem our God has shown us His glory and His greatness and we have heard his voice from the midst of the fire; this day we saw that God will speak to a person and he can live. But now, why should we die when this great fire consumes us? If we continue to hear the voice of God any longer we will die! For is there any human that has heard the voice of the Living god, speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? You should approach-krav atah- and hear whatever God will say and you should speak to us whatever God will speak to you- then we shall hear and we shall do.”


In Chapter 5 we see that B’nai yisrael approached God in a more appropriate manner, with humility and awe.


Rashi points out that the approaching in Chapter 5 was in a proper order. The children were honoring the elders, sending the elders first. The elders were honoring the heads of the tribes by letting the heads of the tribes go first. In Chapter 1, they approached as an unruly crowd , children pushing the elders and elders pushing the leaders.


Nehama Leibowitz points out that the behavior of the delegation was in each case suited to the character of the mission. The approach in Chapter 1 shows a lack of trust in God’s powers, a reliance on moral evidence, gleaned from the report of the spies rather than faith in the Divine promises made to B’nai Yisrael that they would possess the Land flowing with milk and honey. The approach in Chapter 5 is the opposite, an attitude of humility and awe in the presence of Divine revelation.


We see here that there was a change in the spiritual character of B’nai Yisrael.


The Hebrew month of Av, the time when we remember that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed is a time of introspection, a time to work on our character traits. When we see in our Parsha that B’nai Yisrael were able to change and eventually merit inheriting the Land of Israel, it gives us hope that if we work on ourselves we can rise to new spiritual heights and ultimately rebuild the Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim.