Parashas Devarim begins with Moshe Rabbeinu rebuking the Jewish people for the various sins that they committed in the desert. One of the first sins that he addresses is that of the spies. Moshe recalls the events that led to this tragic occurrence. “And you all approached me and said, ‘let us send men ahead of us who will spy out the land for us, and they will tell us the way which we should go in it, and which cities we should come to’.”
Given that all of Moshe’s words involve some kind of rebuke, the question arises, what exactly is the criticism found in these words? Rashi explains that the way in which they approached Moshe was inappropriate. “You all approached me in an irbuvia, the children pushing ahead of the elderly, and the elderly pushing ahead of the leaders.”
The simple understanding of this criticism is that Moshe was rebuking them for a lack in derech eretz (respect) and kavod HaTorah (respect for Torah). Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l writes that it is difficult to say that this was the focus of Moshe’s reproof. It is clear from the account of the spies in Parashas Shelach, that the main failing of the spies was a lack of bitachon (trust in HaShem). This caused them to be fearful of the mighty people living in Eretz Yisroel, and to mourn their perceived inability to conquer the land. Accordingly, what is the connection between the fact that the people approached Moshe in an inappropriate manner, with the lack of bitachon that was the true cause of the sin?
Rav Kamenetsky explains that indeed, the lack of bitachon was the cause of the sin of the spies; the lack of derech eretz displayed was merely a symptom of that lacking. Had they had the appropriate level of trust, then they would have calmly approached Moshe, in the correct order. However, since they felt a great deal of anxiety about entering the land, they acted with behala (ie. in an agitated fashion), and broke the conventions of who should approach Moshe first. In this way, their lack of bitachon was the cause of their agitated behavior.
Rav Kamenetsky uses this idea to answer a pressing question in the story of the spies. In Parashas Shelach, the order of the spies is not in the same order as anywhere else in the Torah. Normally, they are written according to their age, but here they are not. The commentaries offer various suggestions as to the reasoning behind the order. Rav Kamenetsky suggests that there is no reasoning to the order of the spies in this instance; the spies, with the exception of Yehoshua and Calev, felt the same anxiety as the people, therefore they also approached their entry to Eretz Yisroel in a state of behala. Behala results in a lack of order, accordingly, it is appropriate that the spies are mentioned in no specific order as a reflection of their agitated attitude.
We have learnt from the principle of Rav Kamenetsky,that when a person acts in an agitated, or hurried fashion, there is a strong possibility that his behavior stems from a lack of trust in HaShem. A person who has such trust, will feel no sense of panic when he needs to do something, and will have no sense of impatience when events do not take place as quickly as he would like them to. Rather, he recognizes that HaShem is constantly guiding him, and any tests that he undergoes are HaShem’s way of giving him opportunities to grow. However, when a person does not have the security that bitachon provides, he feels no sense of calmness (menucha), and may feel eager to make events happen quicker than they should.
The first lesson that one can take from this idea is to be aware of situations when he may have a tendency to be impatient or agitated. When he is aware that he is in this state, he should make every effort to refrain from any action that he may later regret. Rather, he should try to step back and take a measured view of the situation at hand. Secondly, he should understand that his behavior may well stem from a lack of bitachon, and he should try to internalize that which intellectually he knows to be true – that HaShem is with Him and therefore, there is no need to get agitated.
May we all merit to develop the bitachon that will enable us to live with menucha.