Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman
In this week’s Torah portion we read about the sin of the spies. The spies were leaders of the Jewish people who were sent on a mission to check out the land of Israel. The spies returned with a pessimistic report claiming the Jewish people would not be able to conquer its inhabitants and inherit the land. The people believed them and cried upon hearing this report, causing Bnei Yisroel to be punished by wandering 40 years in the desert before entering the land of Israel.
This story is retold later in Sefer Devorim with a fascinating insight given by the Seforno (a 16th century scholar). The Seforno asks why were the Bnei Yisroel really crying? Did they really think that G-d was incapable of bringing them into the land? Didn’t they just witness miracles saving them from the plagues in Egypt and at the Red Sea? How can we understand this? The Seforno says they were crying because they served idols in Egypt and felt they were unworthy of entering the land of Israel. Their doubts were not about G-d’s ability rather their own frailties. They felt that they had sinned in the past and were unworthy of entering the Holy Land.
According to this interpretation, why was this action of crying such a grave sin that the Bnei Yisroel received such a harsh punishment? In reality, weren’t the Jewish people just being remorseful for their past sins?
One can learn a great lesson from this narrative. Yes, it is proper to reflect on one’s past; yet one has to be careful not to allow it to paralyze oneself and give up hope. In G-d’s eyes, there is never a point where one is totally unworthy. There is a phrase – seeing is believing. The opposite is just as important – believing is seeing. When one believes in oneself and in the G-d given talents that one receives, one will be able to keep on moving forward and see the potential of what lies in store.