Be Happy!

Last week’s Parsha ends with the episode of Miriam who became a Metzoraas – a leper – for speaking Loshon Harah about her brother Moshe. Our great commentator Rashi asks, why does our Parsha, Shelach, which deals with the spies the Jews sent from the desert into Israel, immediately follow the story of Miriam?

Rashi explains that the entire nation didn’t travel for seven days waiting until Miriam was permitted to return to the encampment. Thus they were all aware that Miriam was punished. After seeing the embarrassing and hurtful results of speaking Lashon Harah, the spies should have learned a lesson and not spoken badly about the land of Israel. But unfortunately, they did not take it to heart and spoke negatively about the land.

Commentators ask an obvious question; how can speaking negatively about a human being be compared to speaking about something inanimate – the Land of Israel? A person has feelings while the land does not.

An answer offered is that the root cause of speaking Loshon Harah is looking down on someone else – finding a fault in another. Miriam, feeling that she was on the same level as prophecy of Moshe, spoke to her brother Aaron asking why Moshe conducted himself in a way of purity that she and Aaron did not think necessary. Miriam, because of her elevated level of spirituality, was held to a high standard and judged for finding fault in Moshe and speaking about it to another.

Essentially, the spies’ negative report on the land of Israel stemmed from the same root cause of speaking negatively about another. Although they spoke about the land that consists of matter, about its agriculture, its mighty inhabitants and fortifications, all of which have no intrinsic feelings, but their negative approach and outlook of the land led them to see things skewed and eventually convinced them that the land is unattainable and even bad. All this went against the word of G-d, Who said that it was good and conquerable.

When Moshe originally asked G-d about the nation’s wish to send spies, G-d said, there was no need because I said you’ll conquer it, but if they want to send spies – it’s their free choice.

The mission is comparable to the following illustration.

A family from abroad was looking for a Shidduch – a suitable mate – for their son. They sent a friend to the prospective girl’s city to check out the girl and her family, to see first-hand if they are reputable, trustworthy and sound people. When the messenger returned, he honestly and duly related his findings whether it was positive or negative, which was much appreciated. This type of report is not Lashon Harah, since it is for valuable informational purposes to see if she would be appropriate for a marriage bond.

Now, what if this couple dated and had already become engaged and the father of the groom then asks a friend traveling to the bride’s city to let him know about the reputation of the bride’s family. In this case, since the couple is already engaged, the father is only asking his friend to do so in order that he reports positively about the family in order to increase their excitement. If the friend then reports back with a list of negative things, it will be counterproductive, since the couple is already engaged and the wedding is on, and this wasn’t the intent of the father’s inquiry.

The Torah begins with G-d telling Moshe, “You send men to scout the land of Canaan that I am giving to the children of Israel.” G-d’s intent for the scouts’ mission was not that they should see if it’s a good idea to go into the land or not. For in any case G-d said, “I am giving it to the children of Israel.” To G-d, it was already a done deal that the Jews are getting the land. Therefore, the spies’ mission was to see and report about the positive qualities of the land of Israel to stimulate the nation’s interest in the luscious land of Israel, similar to the father of the groom sending a messenger after their engagement with the intent that he reports encouragingly about the bride and her family.

Our Sages tell us an underlying cause of the spies’ negativity about the land was due to their self-interests. They had concerns that upon entry into the land they would lose their status as Nasi – prince of their tribes – and therefore reported negatively about it to discourage them from advancing. The spies were able to instill fear and anxiety in the people and they began to weep.

G-d became upset and delayed the Jews entry into Israel for 39 years. The night they wept for naught was reserved for the future as a day of mourning for a purpose; it became the fast of Tisha B’Av, the sad day the Babylonians and Romans destroyed the Temples in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Meilech Biederman quotes the Imrei Emes that if crying for no reason resulted in the Jews crying for generations, when one is happy for no reason, it will result in incredible ranges of joy and salvation!

Reb Meilech encourages us – “It is best to laugh and be happy even if you think you have no reason to, for it will result in many reasons to be happy!”