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Why am I seeing this?!

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
June 6, 2018

Moshe had a special mission cut out for twelve individuals. They had to be hand picked and were going on a national mission to search out the land of Israel.

The twelve spies set out to search the land of Israel.

It seemed like an important mission, yet the repercussions proved dire.

Did Moshe choose the right people? Were these people men of stature? When and why did they go wrong?

The Torah relates (Bamidbar 13:3) that when the spies (Meraglim) were chosen, they were all “Anashim,” – esteemed and righteous at the time. (Rashi)

After all, Yehoshua the future leader of Israel was amongst them.

So where did they go wrong?

Let’s take a closer look at Rashi one of the foremost commentators on the Torah.

There seems to be a startling contradiction between two comments of Rashi.

In Pasuk 2, Rashi asks why this weeks Parasha is juxtaposed to last weeks.

He states that last week we learnt about Miriam and how powerful ‘bad’ words of Lashon hara could be. These great men should have looked on and learnt from Miriam not to speak badly and yet they never learnt. In the end they spoke terribly about the beautiful land of Israel.

The next Pasuk (3) Rashi comments (Kulam Anashim) they were men of importance and at that time – Kesherim Hayu – they were righteous.

Which was it? On the one hand Rashi seems to imply that they were righteous at that time, yet at the same time he states they were ‘Reshaim’ and should have learnt from Miriam?

Similarly the Gemara Sotah (35a) expounds the verse, “And they went, and they returned” (Bamidbar 13:26), and says that “just as the Meraglim returned with evil plans, when they departed they already had evil intentions.”

How can Rashi’s explanation be reconciled with the Gemara which says that they were evil from the outset?

The Ohr HaChaim explains that in the eyes of Moshe, they were Tsadikim, but in the eyes of Hashem – who sees to the depth of mans heart, they were Reshaim from the outset. Hence the verse (Bamidbar 13:2) says that Hashem told Moshe Rabenu, “Send men for you” (“Shelach Lecha Anashim”), implying that the Meraglim were “Anashim” only in the eyes of Moshe Rabenu but not in the eyes of Hashem.

Thus when Rashi states that they were righteous that must be referring to Moshe’s understanding of them. When Rashi relates that they were Reshaim, that refers to how Hashem understood them to be.

I would like to share with you another fascinating answer.

The Gemara in Sotah (2a) questions why the laws of Sotah and Nazir are juxtaposed in the Torah (Bamidbar 6).

A Sotah is a woman whose husband had suspicions about her and warned her not to seclude herself with a certain man. If two witnesses testified that she violated her husband’s warning and secluded herself with that person, then the husband would take her to the Bet Hamikdash, where she was given special waters to drink. If she had committed an adulterous act, then the waters would kill her, by causing her body to burst.

Immediately following this section, the Torah proceeds to discuss the laws of a Nazir, a person who makes a vow to abstain from wine.

What is the connection between the two?

The Gemara explains that the Torah connects the two, because a man who witnesses the spectacle of a Sotah in the Bet Hamikdash will respond to seeing this experience by taking upon himself the status of Nazir.

“A person who sees a Sotah in her disgrace will distance himself from wine.”

He saw so he needs to become a Nazir and separate from wine grapes etc.


The Baal Shem Tov gives us an awesome insight. When you see something happening in life, it’s not just haphazard, it’s happening in front of your eyes, because (for whatever reason) Hashem wants you to see it and learn/improve from it.

There is nothing ‘chance’ in life. If this person witnessed a Sotah, it’s for a reason. Therefore he takes upon himself to act, and he separates himself from wine/grapes that can lead to bad behaviour.

We find a similar idea expressed regarding the Ephod.

When the Torah lists the Ephod as part of the Kohen Gadols garments, Rashi – (one of the greatest Torah commentators) is mystified.

The Torah states: And they shall make the Ephod… It shall have its two shoulder-pieces joined at its two edges… (28:6-8).

Rashi comments – ‘I haven’t heard nor have I found in the Talmud an explanation of [the Ephod’s] form. My heart tells me that it is tied on the back, its width the width of a person’s back, its form like the apron worn by princesses when they ride horses…’

“My heart tells me” is an uncharacteristic phrase for Rashi, who usually relates the simple meaning of the verse without citing sources or telling us how he arrived at a particular meaning.

The Baal Shem Tov explained, “Everything that a person sees or hears should serve him as a lesson in His service of G-d.”

Perhaps, Rashi one day happened to come across a party of noblewomen on horseback, and wondered as to what purpose divine providence had shown him this apparently meaningless scene. Then, when he was struggling to describe the form of the Ephod, he realized that this was the model that fit its biblical description.

Rashi saw and realised everything that is put in front of him is for a reason.

We can now understand the differences in Rashi’s statements to our Parasha.

Rashi states that at that time they were Tsadikim, they were men of stature. But the minute they saw what happened to Miriam – and didn’t learn from it – then they were Reshaim.

Life is about being aware about surrounding circumstances, constantly taking in information and bettering our status.

The spies should have learnt from Miriam, they should have said if Hashem is showing us this, there must be something that we can apply to our lives.

They missed the message, and fought contrary to its meaning.

Life brings with it many challenges. We all go through many different experiences. Yet we should always cling to the Baal Shem Tov’s words of wisdom

“Everything that a person sees or hears should serve him as a lesson in his/her service of G-d.”

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