Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from this last Shabbos, parshas Shlach 5778. Rav Weinberger has reviewed this write-up and any corrections are incorporated herein. Enjoy!
Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Shlach 5778
We Will Surely Succeed!
When we last saw our heroes in last week’s parshah, we were left with a feeling of optimism. Moshe said, “We are traveling to the place about which Hashem said, ‘I will give it to you’” (Bamidbar 10:29). We were on the cusp of entering and building Eretz Yisroel. We are therefore heartbroken when we read, in parshas Shlach, the spies’ report and the people’s reaction to it: “But the nation that dwells in the land is mighty, the cities are great and extremely fortified, and we saw the children of giants there” (ibid. 13:29).
The people broke out into raucous complaining against Moshe and against entering Eretz Yisroel, such that no one even had the opportunity to offer a dissenting opinion. They would not even let Yehoshua speak or be heard. First, this was because he was so closely associated with Moshe. He was considered unreliable because he was part of “the establishment.” And second, they would not listen to Yehoshua because they said, “Can the one with his head cut off speak?!” (Sota 35a). In other words, because Yehoshua had no sons who would inherit the land (Rashi) or fight to conquer it, what right did he have to voice an opinion regarding whether the Jewish people could conquor the land.
There was only one person who was even able to cause his voice to be heard amid the cacophony of voices criticizing Moshe and Hashem. That was Calev, who was looked at as one of “the people,” rather than a member of the establishment: “And Calev silenced the nation to [hear about] Moshe” (Bamidbar 13:30). And what was his message? He stood on a bench to make himself heard (Sota 35a) when he called out: “We can surely ascend and take possession of it, for we can surely succeed in doing it!”
How did Calev succeed in at least making himself heard when no one else could? What made him different? We know that Rashi quotes the explanation that the nation listened to him because he kept the strength of his faith concealed, acting as if he agreed with the other spies. The people quieted down for him because he pretended as if he was about to speak against Moshe. But the Torah also says something else about Calev with which we can further understand how he was able to make himself heard where others could not. The passuk says that “My servant Calev, because he was possessed of a different spirit…” (ibid. 14:24).
What was this “different spirit?” Calev took a different approach than one would expect. The spies levied many specific and apparently well-founded claims to support their contention that the people could not conquer Eretz Yisroel. They cited the hardiness of those who dwelled in the land, how well their cities were fortified, the unusual nature of the produce, and the fact that the land seemed to consume its inhabitants. Yet Calev failed to address even one of these seemingly legitimate concerns. He simply cried out, “We can surely ascend and take possession of it, for we can surely succeed in doing it!” He must have sounded like some sort of messianic dreamer to his fellow spies, like an ideologue worthy of being dismissed. Why was his the only message that was heard?
Oftentimes smaller people get lost in minutia, losing sight of the bigger picture, getting caught in the weeds of the small details. Anyone who has tried to make peace between two long-time friends or a married couple during a fight understands this. If one descends into the details of the multitude of claims each one has against the other, he and they will never emerge. The only way to lead them out is to show them a shining example of the love they used to share. The only way forward is to jump onto a bench and use that different spirit to completely change people’s perspective.
The majority of people can focus on various details, on certain nuts-and-bolts issues. And the Jewish nation relies on such people to get things done – to address day-to-day management of the good things that have been built and to turn visionaries’ plans into reality. But there are rare individuals who can gaze above the details and the obstacles beyond which the realistic people cannot see. The Jewish people would have nothing in this world if it were not for visionaries like Calev.
When the board of Aish Kodesh was meeting years ago, the members did the math in terms of objections of the neighbors, raising the money, and the like, and it did not seem rational or possible to build the building in which we daven today. But there was one Jew there who stood up and called out, “We can surely succeed in doing it!” Once he said that, he and others simply went about the work of figuring out how to resolve the various objections and details. And everyone who initially objected eventually joined in the effort and their nuts-and-bolts attitude helped bring our vision to a reality.
We would never have yeshivos, game-changing developments, or any truly positive institutions in klal Yisroel if it were not for the people who looked beyond what is to see what must be. The reality is that we need the people who can focus on the small details, but nothing would happen without those precious Jews who throw aside all objections, logistical obstacles, and details and simply insist that it can be done. They, together with the nuts-and-bolts Jews who come on board afterward, work together to bring that vision to a reality.
May we all merit to see the ultimate partnership of the dreamers and the realists in causing the arrival of Moshiach and the ultimate redemption – and with it, the building of the third Beis HaMikdash soon in our times!
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