Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Shlach Lecha
To dedicate this lesson

Permission to be Proud


Rabbi Yosef Nave

Sivan 20 5783

This week's Torah portion of Sh'lach recounts the tragic sin of the Twelve Spies. It was their negative report that brought a temporary but calamitous halt to the glorious march of the Jewish People to the Land in which they were to become a Torah-learned people and a light unto the nations. 

At the beginning of Parashat Sh'lach, the Torah lists the names of the spies – including the two who did not take part in the demoralizing report: Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun. We read that the latter's name was originally Hoshea, but that Moshe added the letter yod, standing for G-d, and called him Yehoshua, as if to say, "May G-d protect you from the counsel of the [other] spies." 

The Targum Yehonatan writes: "When Moshe saw his humbleness, he called him Yehoshua." What about Yehoshua's humbleness bothered Moshe?

The Chatam Sofer explains that Moshe was afraid that Yehoshua's humility might prevent him from standing up to the other spies and their negative inclinations. The Chatam Sofer continues to explain that sometimes, when one is very humble and lowly, his humility is liable to become a negative trait, in that he could feel so unworthy that he loses the motivation to take action and serve G-d with all his potential. In addition, he might feel so "modest" and lowly that he gives in to negative peer pressure and does not fulfill the mitzvot that he knows he should. 

One must therefore have a modicum of pride in himself, as in the verse, "His [King Yehoshafat's] heart was uplifted in the ways of G-d" (Chronicles II 17,6). This "holy arrogance," says the Chatam Sofer, is symbolized by the Divine name Ya-h, spelled with the two letters yod and heh. This is why Moshe blessed Yehoshua with this Divine name, so that his humility should not take the place of his "holy pride" and that he should be able to stand up for the true purpose of the Spies' holy mission.

The Arizal wrote that the gematriya (Hebrew numerology) value of the word gaavah (pride) is 15 – the same as yod-heh. This teaches, he says, that pride must be reserved only for matters of sanctity, and for raising one's heart only for the service of G-d. One must be strong and firm against those forces that would prevent him from fulfilling his holy mission.

One must not be ashamed to do the right thing, and must be wary of the trait of "false humility" that enables him to take the easy way out because of societal or other pressures. "His heart was uplifted in the ways of G-d."

When G-d commanded Moshe to choose the spies, He told him to take one representative from each tribe – specifically, the "prince" of each tribe. The literal translation of this poetic command is this: "One man, one man, to the tribe of his fathers you shall send, every prince among them."  The holy Rebbe Yechiel Yaakov of Koznitz explained as follows:

Two types of Jews are referred to here. There are those who are born to families of righteous people, who might think that their Divine service comes easily to them via heredity, and that they need not work hard to achieve high levels. And there are those whose upbringing was not in an environment of fear of G-d, and whose families and friends discouraged them, or worse, from fulfilling the mitzvot. This latter group might think to themselves that there is no point in trying to improve, for their very roots are bad.

This is why the verse repeats "one man" twice, to direct this message to both types: "to the tribe of his fathers you shall send" – Send away that which your fathers taught you! Pay no attention to your roots if they direct you to be lazy and not work hard on your spiritual development! Rather, "every prince among them!" – All your prince-like behavior in your spiritual service and character development is dependent only upon yourselves, and not others!

So writes Rav Natan, the prime student of Rav Nachman of Breslov:

"His heart was uplifted in the ways of G-d:" We must raise our hearts and thoughts in the ways of G-d and realize that it is not appropriate for us to act negatively, like animals - for our souls are very high, like princes, and we must act accordingly, as is written, "You [Israel] are sons to Hashem your G-d" (Deut. 14,1)…

"And every person can [work hard and] be like the truly righteous, for everyone has Free Will and the ability to attain [great heights]."

Every person, even the most "humble," has within him the essence and ability to reach the highest levels. The difference is only that the tzaddik is truly connected to this knowledge, while the simple people do not yet believe in themselves and in their strengths.

As Rabbe Nachman said: "This is what you are missing! You imagine that the achievements of the great tzaddikim belong only to them, when in fact, every person can attain [that] level!"

Translated by Hillel Fendel.

את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר