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Home » Sh'lach L'chah

Sh’lach: Loyal to Whom?

Submitted by on June 18, 2006 – 5:39 amNo Comment | 2,476 views

The Vice President

After twenty years with the company the senior vice president was invited to the President’s office.

“We have been experiencing a rash of theft in the mail room,” said the president, “and we suspect the mail room supervisor. This position must be filled with someone we can trust and you have demonstrated your loyalty to the company for more than two decades. We have decided to appoint you to this position.”

The Vice President was incensed. “For twenty years,” he objected, “I have devoted my energies to your company and now you demote me to the mail room?” As he stormed out of the office h

e heard the President mutter, “You were loyal to a fault, but only to your position within the company, never to the company itself.

Indeed, it is possible to devote a lifetime to enhance the company for which we work, the social circle to which we belong or the marriage to which we are committed and yet be committed only to ourselves.

The Unreachable Reward

When Moses led our ancestors through the desert they were promised a lovely reward at the end of their journey, a land flowing with milk and honey. Anxious about the way of life that awaited them in Israel, our ancestors sent a delegation of spies to scout the land.

Upon their return the spies reported that it was an amazing land, blessed with gargantuan fruit, towering mountains, lush valleys and plentiful streams. Its inhabitants seemed healthy and strong. Its economy, thriving and prosperous. Its borders were secured by fearsome warriors, powerful armies and naturally secure perimeters.

So what was wrong? Why did the nation greet this report with tears?

They feared the fearsome armies and the naturally secure borders. They envisioned defeat and massacre on the battlefields and tearfully bemoaned their fate.

This literal reading of our ancestors’ reluctance to push forth and claim their promised land justifies the divine response. Through Moses, G-d rebuked the people for their lack of faith and punished ten of the twelve spies. (1)

An Idyllic Life

The mystics, however, treat us to an delightful perspective from which our ancestors emerge in a positive light. Under their treatment the spies are seen not as unfaithful heretics, but as devoted saints who could not stand to surrender their sacred way of life.

In the desert our ancestors lived an idyllic life. They were not distracted by economic burdens or social entanglements. They had no worldly worries or mundane concerns. Their every need was bountifully provided by G-d.

Bread fell daily from heaven. Water gushed forth from a miraculous rock. Garments grew with their bodies and were laundered daily by the Clouds of Glory. The clouds protected them from the desert elements leaving them with nothing to worry about. Their sole occupation was the study of Torah. .

They came to know, fear and love G-d. They lived a life of purpose and devotion in a pious and peaceful environment. Every day was a new frontier in the unchartered paths of spiritual pursuit.

Soon to be Shattered

With this idyllic existence they were apprehensive about the future. When they contemplated the promised land they experienced a hint of trepidation. Could they possibly preserve this other worldly existence in their promised land?

Their many needs would overwhelm them. First they would have to conquer the land, then divide the tribal lots and apportion them. They would have to raise an army, wage wars, establish judicial systems and organize the infrastructure of government. They would have to cultivate fields, harvest crops and feed their families. Would they find time for devotion and meditation

They sent spies to confirm their suspicions and were met with a sobering report. “Yes,” reported the spies, “the land overflows with material blessing.” They would need to farm the luscious lands, fish the plentiful rivers, hike the towering mountains and inhabit the deep valleys. They would need to defend their borders and raise an army. They would not be free to devote themselves to Torah and to spirituality.

At this the nation balked. “No,” they cried, “we don’t want that kind of life. We are accustomed to our ascetic life of sainthood and have no desire for the promised land. We would forfeit the land if in return we might be permitted to worship in peace.”

Soldiers in G-d’s Army

Admirable though their desire was, it was wrong. Judaism is not about realizing personal goals, it is about fulfilling G-d’s goals. It is not about enhancing our prestige, it is about being a good servant Our religion does not strive to create spiritually minded ascetics, it strives to create Jews that are obedient to G-d’s will.

Our loyalty mustn’t be to our position within the company, but to the company itself. When G-d wants us in the mail room we don’t belong in the front office. We each have our position and we should be honored to accept it.

If G-d needed our ancestors in Israel then they belonged in Israel even if they were better served in the desert. When G-d instructs we must obey. When he orders we must follow.

After all, we are soldiers in his army. (2)


  1. Numbers, 13-14.
  2. Likutei Torah, Bamidbar, 36b (R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chassidus Chabad, 1745 – 1813).
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