gap year in israel

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This week in Israel we read the Torah portion of Shlach. As the Jewish people encamp outside of what will eventually be their new home in the Land of Israel, Moses, as any good Commander-and-Chief would do, decides to send spies on a reconnaissance mission. He deems it important to ascertain what kind of land it is, where are the best entry points, what kind of inhabitants there are, and what kind of military strength these inhabitants have. It’s important to note that this mission was not based on G-d’s command. Ultimately, it would become known as the “Sin of the Spies.”

Most understand that the sin in this episode was that the spies gave a negative report of the Land and expressed doubt as to whether they could truly win over the inhabitants. In truth, if G-d promises something, one ought to need no further evidence and trust in the promise of G-d. While this is the conventional understanding of this episode, there is another understanding that we will explore based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman. Let’s begin with a Mashal or allegory.

A man decided to begin a new business venture. He had zero clients and struggled to get anyone to have confidence in this new company. One individual believed in him and took the leap of faith to become the first client. After many years, the company had grown to be incredibly successful with thousands of clients. The CEO had to delegate the cases of his various clientele to his employees beneath him. As he handed out folder after folder to the delegates, he finally reached the folder of his very first client. He remembered his humble beginnings, of how he struggled to get clients to believe in him, and how this man was the only one to do so. Out of gratitude, he decided that while all other cases would be handled by employees, he alone would take care of this particular client.

G-d is represented by the CEO in this allegory. The Land of Israel or the people of Israel are represented in that first client. Whereas all other lands and nations have angels that oversee their particular providence, G-d recalls Israel affectionately and as opposed to having an angel watch over Israel, He alone has providence over Israel. Rebbe Nachman says that the “Sin of the Spies” was actually the very notion of sending spies to do reconnaissance. Were it any other land or people, it would be only natural to do the due diligence necessary to conquer the land. However, Israel is not like any other land or any other people. They are beyond nature and should have acted in a like manner. The sin was treating the miraculous like that which is natural.

May we merit to see the miraculous gift to be found in every Jew and in our beloved Land, never to take either for granted.

Shabbat Shalom

– Rabbi Liad Braude

Parashat shlach