Our parsha tells mainly about the sin of the spies, one of the most difficult tests which happened to the Jewish people during their time in the wilderness, and a tragedy which is connected to the destruction of the Temple, whose results we feel until today. What can we learn from the sin of the spies which applies to our lives today? “They reported to him and said, ‘We arrived at the Land to which you sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But- the people that dwells in the Land is powerful, the cities are fortified and very great, and we also saw the offspring of the giant.” (Chapter 13, Verses 27-28)
Rebbe Noson teaches that the main aspect of will, wanting to serve Hashem and to return to Him, a person can merit in the land of Israel, as it says in Tehillim, “Hashem, You have favored Your land…” (Chapter 85, Verse 2) Therefore several of the tribes were blessed that their portion in the land will be full of desire, as it is written “Naphtali, satiated with favor…”, “and by the favor of He who rested upon the thorn bush…” (Devarim, Chapter 33, Verses 16 & 23) The main place where a person can merit strong will and longing for Hashem is in the land of Israel, because there Hashem’s presence shines in a stronger way. The illumination of our will is the aspect of a good smell, and the main place of the incredible scent (so to speak) of Godliness is only in Eretz Yisrael. The land of Israel is called ארץ המוריה, the land of Moriah, because of the pleasant smell of the incense offering which was brought in the Temple. The Holy Temple was the main place where the will and love and longing of the Jewish people for God was revealed. From there the illuminated will shines to each and every person according to how much they try to connect themselves to the holiness of the land of Israel. However, the spies were tainted in this matter, because they said that the obstacles were greater than the power of their will, which is not the case. Therefore they first praised the land of Israel, “and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit,” and after that they spoke about the tremendous obstacles to come to the land. They made a (true) statement, and then said the opposite. “This is its fruit”, alludes to the tremendous illumination of will which shines in the land of Israel, however they said afterwards “But the people that dwells in the Land is powerful.” The obstacles are too great! They did not believe in the incredible power of their will to reach the land of Israel and settle it, which could overcome any obstacle. This was their mistake. This sin caused crying for many generations, because Hashem said to the spies: You shed tears in vain, therefore there will be crying for generations (over the destruction of the first two Temples). (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Blessings on Smell, 5th teaching)
Rebbe Nachman teaches something incredible about the power of will in Likutei Moharan, in the 31st teaching in Part One. He says the main way our soul is revealed and comes into being is through our longing and good desires to come closer to Hashem and to serve Hashem. Every person, on their level, according to how much they long and yearn to reach a higher level of closeness and knowledge, by way of this their soul becomes holier and more refined. (Adapted from Likutei Eitzot, Advice)
Ratzon (will) is also the vessel which brings down the blessings that we want. A friend of mine talked about this subject a few years ago when he hosted a dinner celebrating the completion of a tractate of Gemara which he had just finished. He gave a few examples of desires which came to him during personal prayer. He said, ‘I want to play piano’, even though at the time he didn’t have a piano or know how to play it. He kept on expressing his will. Afterwards, he received a piano from a family member who didn’t have room for it and he began taking lessons with a friend to learn to play piano. It became a reality. He said, ‘I want to learn Gemara’, even though he didn’t have a study partner or seemingly time in his schedule at the time. When he talked about this example at the dinner, he had already finished several tractates of the Talmud. Things which might seem completely unrealistic at the time can become a reality if we connect to all of the dreams and good desires that we want. Nothing in the world can stop us from wanting something.
What do you want? This is what really matters. The holiness of our soul becomes more and more revealed according to how much we are able to strengthen our will. Wanting good, still wanting to do whatever good that we can, no matter where we might find ourselves in life, this is what is truly in our hands. We all know that life is full of ups and downs. Therefore, even when we make mistakes and become discouraged and maybe even think about giving up on something, we need to always return to what we truly want. A practical step which we can practice on a daily basis is to set aside time to ask ourselves, ‘what do I want?’ The more that we express our good desires, to ourselves and before God, the more that they grow stronger inside. This gives us the strength to overcome the obstacles that we face in life. Where ever we might find ourselves in the world, we can connect to the shining power of will which comes from the land of Israel, from the illumination of the Holy Temple.
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)