P arshas Shelach

“Send for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan…” (Bamidbar 13:2)

Rashi comments on the words “for yourself.” Hashem said to Moshe, “You determine if you should send Meraglim; I’m not commanding you to send them.”

Rashi’s explanation paints a perplexing picture. Hashem warned Moshe that the mission of the spies was fraught with possibilities that Bnei Yisrael might err. Wasn’t Moshe concerned about the danger?

We find that Moshe did show concern by adding the letter “yud” to Yehoshua’s name to protect him from the spies’ conspiracy (Bamidbar 13: 16). Why, then, did Moshe send the spies at all? (Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Dorash Dovid)

My niece called Thursday night as I was peeling potatoes.

“I’m on the debating team in school and the topic is: ‘Does Bais Yaakov prepare you for marriage?’ Can you look over my speech and tell me what you think?”

“Sure, I love debates. I’d be happy to see your ideas!” I hung up, my brain racing with pros and cons. Are we preparing our girls for life? For that matter, was I prepared for my life today?

Staring down at the potatoes in my hands, my thoughts tumbled on. Is it even possible to truly prepare someone for life when no one ever knows what the future holds in store?

What classes could possibly explain difficult marriages, children born with illness, lack of finances? Doesn’t it all come down to emunah, which is surely emphasized in our curriculums?

Furthermore, on a more basic level, are we, as parents, preparing our own children for life? Are teaching habits like making your bed and brushing your teeth going to help our kids navigate the future?

To understand, we must recognize the fundamental difference between Hashem’s conduct toward Bnei Yisrael in the wilderness versus in Eretz Yisrael. During their sojourn in the midbar, not only were their physical needs met without much effort, but their spiritual attainments were showered upon them from Heaven as well. They were in a situation similar to Adam Harishon before his sin.

In contrast, the life that awaited them in Eretz Yisrael would be vastly different — both their material and spiritual needs would be dependent on their own efforts.

Therefore, we propose that Moshe’s decision to send the spies was motivated by this change. By the nation’s demand, he recognized their faith was not complete. Unless they were prepared for this impending change, the sudden adjustment could result in a disastrous spiritual downfall.

When the spies entered Eretz Yisrael, Hashem concealed His Hashgachah so they’d be able to teach Bnei Yisrael how to contend with such a situation. Unfortunately, they failed in their mission. (ibid.)

What was the secret to life’s preparation? The question was still simmering a few days later as I stood with Yitzi in the hot afternoon sun, trying unsuccessfully to teach him to ride a bike.

“I don’t wanna.” He gave the back wheel a half-hearted kick.

“C’mon, cutes. Once you get the hang of it, it’ll be great!”

“Yeah,” his brother Binyamin chimed in. “You’re going to zoom like this!” And off he was on his own bicycle, which didn’t add much to Yitzi’s mood.

“Slowly… I’m holding on…” But again, the bike tipped and Yitzi narrowly avoided a scraped knee. What was I doing wrong?

The mission of the Meraglim presents us with a paradigm for the proper education of our children and students. A parent or educator begins by achieving the maximum level of closeness and support, constantly providing direction and guidance. Over time however, he focuses on preparing the child to serve Hashem through his own efforts. A child must be encouraged to achieve genuine spiritual growth — a level that emerges only from independent internal efforts. (ibid.)

“Again?” Yitzi eyed the bicycle with contempt, but reluctantly straddled the seat.

“Now the secret is…” I stared at the bike trying to figure it out — what was the secret balancing act?

Binyamin rode back over, doing figure-eights and offering less-than-helpful hints. Watching him zoom around, inspiration flashed. “The secret, Yitzi, is that when you’re on the bike, don’t look down. Look ahead, to where you want to go, and you’ll get there.

“C’mon! Look ahead! You can do it!”

And he did. Head up, wobbling slowly down the street, his gaze fixed on the far-off destination.

“Atta boy, Yitzi! Don’t look down! Look where you want to go!”

I’ve finally got it — the secret to success. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 546)