Telling Priorities

June 26, 2016 at 4:39 AM , , , ,

“…Calev silenced the people regarding Moshe, and he said, “We shall surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it…” – Bamidbar 13:30

וַיַּהַס כָּלֵב אֶת הָעָם אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר עָלֹה נַעֲלֶה וְיָרַשְׁנוּ אֹתָהּ כִּי יָכוֹל נוּכַל לָהּ – במדבר יג, ל

Moshe sent spies to the Land of Israel. Upon their return, they reported: “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified.”

At that point, Calev interrupted them. He silenced the nation and assured them, “We shall surely go up and take possession of it [the Land], for we can indeed overcome it.”

Why did Calev interrupt the spies’ report? Up until that point, they spoke only about the richness of the land and the might of its inhabitants—precisely what Moshe had asked them to investigate! What did Calev see in their words that already put him on the defensive?

Telling Priorities

What Calev noticed was that they did not report their findings in the same order as Moshe’s directives to them. In this slight deviation, Calev sensed a fundamental difference of priorities between them and Moshe. Moshe said, “See the land, what is it: are the people who inhabit it strong or weak? Are they few or many? And what of the land they inhabit: is it good or bad?” (Bamidbar 13:18-19). The first thing Moshe asked about was the strength of the land’s inhabitants, because his primary concern was how to go about G-d’s command to conquer the land. The quality of the land was only of secondary significance to him. The spies, however, spoke first about the benefits of conquering the Land—“it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit,” and only afterward about the challenging task that lie before Bnei Yisrael.

Calev realized immediately that they were making a dreadful mistake. For when a person’s focus in doing G-d’s will is the reward that he will receive in return, his dedication to the task is determined by the benefit it will yield: does the reward justify going great lengths to fulfill this particular mitzvah or not? Additionally, when mitzvos become defined by the degree of difficulty they entail, it isn’t long before a person wrongly concludes that some of G-d’s commands are simply impossible. Therefore, even before the spies stated their conclusions, Calev already knew to protest their report.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 4, pp. 1313-1314

 

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