Davka today, just hours before Shabbat Shelach, the Torah Portion when we read of the "Sin of the Spies, in which the most distinguished and honored of the Jewish Nation reported back to Moshe and the People that it would be too difficult and dangerous to live the Land G-d was sending them to, I got the YU Bulletin.
Now, Yeshiva University is a very impressive university with massive campuses, world renown undergraduate and graduate schools offering the most impressive academic opportunities. This isn't the first time we've received this publication, but today I was trying to think of a way to bring Parshat Shelach to modern life and blog.
If only all of that great energy, investment, enthusiasm and vision had been in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. Just think of the magnificent opportunities, the attraction for potential olim (immigrants.) The world would have been a different world. Israel would have been a different country. World Jewry, Torah and academic, would be centered here in the Holy Land.
Phil Chernofsky expresses it well in Torah Tidbits:
This issue of TT is the 17th one for Sh'lach and the number of times we've tried to make the point that living in Israel is essential to G-d's Plan for His Nation is far greater than 17. And each time, we try to say it in a different way. Maybe one way will hit home with the person who needs the message.Over forty years ago, when I announced to my parents that I planned on making aliyah, moving to Israel, I told them that to me living in the Land of Israel was a mitzvah, G-d given Commandment, no different than kosher food and Shabbat.
Try this: When a generally observant Jew reads/listens the Torah, he reacts positively to ZACHOR ET YOM HASHABBAT L'KAD'SHO, remember the Shabbat, etc. And he reacts negatively to this week's episode of the "wood gatherer". He neither admires nor emulates the M'koshesh Eitzim (Tz'lofchad, according to Tradition).
How does (should) this same basically observant Jew react to the passages in the Torah that speak of G-d's "desire" that we follow His Torah and be faithful to Him in Eretz Yisrael? How does he react to the episode of the M'raglim (also from this week's sedra, of course)? Is he as appalled at the behavior of the 10 M'raglim as he is about the Shabbat desecrater or the one who "blessed" G-d's name? Does he admire Kalev who risked his life to passionately plead with the people to listen to G-d? And who does he emulate: Nachbi b. Vofsi or Kalev b. Yefuneh?
Israel is the way it is because of the results of our decisions and actions. When I was much younger I studied dance. My dance movement expert, (Alan Wayne), taught us that every movement, even the very slightest change in position will have very different results. If the hard-working visionaries who built Yeshiva University had decided that it must be in the Land of Israel, today's State of Israel would be totally different. And while I'm at it, I must say:
If the Chareidi rabbis had seen serving in the Israeli Army as a crucially important mitzvah, today's IDF would be a strong Torah Defense Force!
Judaism never accepts that things can't be fixed or changed. That's what tshuva, repentance, is all about. We must constantly strive for a higher level of Jewish Life and to correct our, yes, our, mistakes.
Shabbat Shalom U'Mevorach
May You Have A Complete and Blessed Sabbath