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SPIES LIKE US

by Rabbi Yaakov Bogart    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Is holiness only for a rabbi or some hidden righteous person? In our busy world, can we be expected to live a sanctified life? Let us examine the episode of the spies in this week's Torah portion and we will learn that the life of kedusha (holiness) is waiting right around the corner for all of us.

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Is holiness only for a rabbi or some hidden righteous person? In our busy world, can we be expected to live a sanctified life? Let us examine the episode of the spies in this week's Torah portion and we will learn that the life of kedusha (holiness) is waiting right around the corner for all of us.

We are all aware of the grave error committed by the spies when they spoke negatively about our Holy Land. Of course, there are many explanations regarding the motive or cause for their actions, yet the Midrash seems to underscore a very basic flaw in their approach to their mission. The Midrash states that there is nothing more beloved to Hashem than an agent on a mission to perform a mitzvah who is selflessly and totally dedicated to his task. Agents of mitzvot who are completely consumed with the carrying out of Hashem's will and whose every action is dictated by His word are the ones who are so dear to Hashem. The sages explain that it was this ingredient of selfless dedication that was, in some way, lacking amongst the members of the delegation.

The S'fas Emes, a great 19th century Torah scholar and leader, observes that although, in essence, the Jewish people made a mistake when they requested to search out the land of Israel (clearly demonstrating their lack of faith in Hashem), nonetheless Hashem created for them an opportunity to transform their mission into something sacred and holy. If indeed the spies would have forgotten their own personal motives and instead approached their objective as nothing more or less than the fulfillment of Hashem's word, then only good would have resulted from their actions. Unfortunately, the spies did not attain the necessary purity of motives required to achieve success.

The above-mentioned Midrash unlocks the secret for attaining holiness in our seemingly mundane world. Despite the illusion of our ordinary world, every Jew can and does rise to great heights when he views himself as an agent of mitzvot on a mission from the Almighty.

Of course, the Jewish people are blessed to possess the most holy of treasures in the world, the Torah, and there can be no greater activity made available to us than the study of Torah. But most of us cannot spend twenty-four hours a day engrossed in the pleasures of study. Being humans, we must take part in the mundane and routine activities of life. Many of us find ourselves almost consumed with making a living and other necessary pursuits, not to mention the basic bodily needs that everyone must take care of.

Nonetheless, everyone can raise themselves to a level of humanity that is completely pure and holy. Just as the spies could have performed their duty only with Hashem's mitzvah in mind and thereby sanctified their mission, so too can we sanctify every action when we honestly make our choices based on Hashem's will. Our eating, sleeping, and every other activity can become a mitzvah if we do them with the intention of fulfilling what Hashem really wants from us.

With a little thought and sensitivity, we can begin viewing the world through a different prism. A business or occupation becomes a means of supporting worthy Torah causes and a vehicle to conduct business with a Torah ethic. A Jewish home will become a place where the door is open for those who are less fortunate and a place where even the most private activities are done with an awareness of our Creator. Eating right, sleeping properly, and staying fit can become mitzvot that allow us to better perform other mitzvot and to dedicate even more energy to the study of Torah. The list literally goes on and on. A seemingly ordinary life is transformed into the life of a righteous person, the one who sanctifies the mundane with the observance of mitzvot and who fulfills his mission with total dedication.

Indeed, holiness is not left for a select few, or for the rabbi who sits on the dais. Rather, every Jew is granted the gift and challenge of making the life that is right before him into something sacred and holy. All of us must dedicate ourselves to become that special righteous person that we can become. Now, enough with the written word. . .let us begin!

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Rabbi Yaakov Bogart, a native Atlantan, is studying in the Beth Medrash Gavohah Kollel of Lakewood, New Jersey.

You are invited to read more Parshat Shelach articles.

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