SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR BY ARIELLA BRACHA WALDINGER
Have you ever been challenged by the reality of being so near to success, or reaching a long awaited goal and suddenly, you feel it slipping through your fingers due to your own bad choice?….so Near and yet so Far. It feels so sad, so shameful, so hopeless and you agonize over it, because you understand the ramifications are far reaching. I believe for most of us, we can relate to this experience and it is a painful one.
This is exactly what happened in this week’s Torah portion Shlach when Moshe sent spies to survey the land of Israel to ascertain the strengths of its inhabitants, resources and livability. Moshe sent carefully chosen Torah scholars….leaders of the Nation to bring back a report. They understood that G-d had chosen the Land of Israel for His people and that the time for entering was divinely ordained by G-d. The nation was literally standing at the threshold of entering the physical, yet spiritual, land that G-d had promised to Avraham and his descendents. They were so near to success and achieving the purpose for which they were redeemed from Egypt and yet so far from understanding that purpose. The distance and disconnect that was created from their spiritual blindness and lack of understanding still permeates the reality of many Jews today. We are still being impacted by their bad choice and as a result appear to be far away from our destiny which is really very near to us, if only we can learn from the spies’ mistake.
How we experience life is based on our perceptions of life but often our perceptions are ego-centered or skewed, as they are based upon many hidden factors. The Zohar (III:152a) teaches that the thoughts that were uppermost in the minds of the spies were that they ate bread from heaven, had no financial worries, and had ample time to sit and learn. They understood that when they went into the Land, they would have to work and it would disturb their spiritual pursuits. Their perceptions were off. Gideon Weitzman in the book, “Sparks of Light” essays on the weekly Torah portions based upon Rav Kook’s teachings, states that they preferred a carefree life in the desert more so than a worrisome existence in the Land of Israel. He says this is the root cause of the spies’ sin. They saw Torah study as a distinct entity, disconnected from national life. This misconception blinded them, so that the report they brought back was not only false but illogical. They failed to perceive that the physical work would be fused with spiritual aspirations because the soul of Am Yisrael is infused with holy purpose, even when it appears hidden.
If I were to answer the questions Moshe put before the spies,through today’s eyes, here is how I would respond Moshe requested, Note the quality of the Land……..it is exceptional with diverse and distinct topography and stunning natural beauty; Note whether the inhabitants are weak or strong…….the Jewish nation in the Land is full of courage and vigor and are spiritually alive in the deepest way….in a way that you cannot possibly understand unless you live here; Note whether the cities are fortified…..they are fortified with legions of angels, G-d’s blinding light of protection, loving acts of kindness, constant Torah learning and mitzvot which add strength to our nation and spiritual nourishment to fortify our souls; Note whether there are trees………Trees you ask? Israel is the only nation in the world who ended the 20th century with more trees than it started with, while other countries ended with less. There are trees with purple flowers, red flowers, pink flowers, yellow flowers…..more beautiful and fragrant than any you have ever seen and the varieties are vast. Israel is also one of the largest exporters of flowers which bloom in the Land all year long. Note the fruit of the land; the taste of its fruit is indescribable as it is saturated with holiness. To summarize, the reports of life in Israel today are beyond favorable with everything one needs to live happily and successfully. Israel has it all, as never before and living here is within your reach if you so desire. In order to truly rectify the sin of the spies, you must remove the blinders that the spies wore and trade them in for new spiritual lenses to bring you into the light of its truth and beauty. Rav Kook reminds us that AM YISRAEL, ERETZ YISRAEL and TORAH are one. They are intrinsically linked. One does not come into fruition without the other and he concludes that the Nation only has full expression when we are in our Land.
Gideon Weitzman in “Sparks of Light” summarizes that the only way to acquire the Holy Land is to fuse the physical with the spiritual on all levels. In Eretz HaKodesh, we have the possibility of proving to all that even mundane tasks can become sanctified and become part of the Divine service. This can be achieved in the Land of Israel and only in the Land of Israel. He concludes with the following: The land of Israel cannot be conquered by might alone. In order to truly enter Eretz Yisrael, we need both the spirit and the body. Then, Israel becomes part of Am Yisrael and we become part of the Land.
I believe that we absolutely have the chance today to rectify the damage caused by that tremendous blunder by coming HOME and being a part of the building of ourselves and our nation. We can take delight in our Holy Land and all the goodness it has to offer. It is our choice, so choose well because our personal choice will have the biggest impact on our private life as well as our national life.
I will close with Blessings which we all need. For those not in the Land, I Bless you to merit the desire and willingness to claim your true ancestral, spiritual inheritance by returning home to Eretz HaKodesh! For those who are already home, I bless you to merit to grasp, at the deepest spiritual level, the full implications of what it means to be living in the Holy Land. Be sure to guard your speech relating to the Land as it is forbidden to speak ill of Eretz Yisrael.
Hatzlacha and Bracha in all your endeavors, With Love, Ariella Bracha