Before reading this vort bear two things in mind!
1.The spies were kosher Jews at the time they set out (Rashi, Bamidbar 13:3).
2.Don’t trust in yourself until the day of your death (Avot 2:5; Berakhot 29a).
The yetzer hara- the Evil Inclination. Every person has one.
Rabbi Nachman Of Breslov teaches that with every step closer to Hashem that a person makes, he kills one yetzer hara and gets another, more refined yetzer hara. The yetzer hara of the vast majority of humankind is very vulgar. Some people, though, have a yetzer hara that rushes them, pushing them too far and too fast on the spiritual journey. Some people even have a yetzer hara that is holy .
There are two stories going on in this week’s parshah—three actually, if we count yours. The first story is that of the spies. The second is in the haftarah, the story of Rachav (Joshua 2).
Story 1: The spies went on a seemingly simple mission: visit the Holy Land, report about its goodness and point the way. Instead they came back saying that the Land was not so good, it was unconquerable and the Jews just might as well stay in the desert, comfortably enwrapped in the Clouds of Glory.
Obviously a massive mistake. How could they make it? What was their motivation? The holy Zohar (2:158b) says that they were tzadikkim, but gave themselves bad advice. “Here in the desert we are leaders, but in the Land Moshe will replace us with new leaders.” Obviously this is not meant to be understood that they were power-hungry or glory-seekers. If that were so, Moshe Rabbeinu would not have chosen them. Moshe Rabbeinu was very perspicacious and an excellent judge of character (see Shmos 18:21, 25). Yet, they ended up doing something so terrible that they have no share in the World to Come (Sanhedrin 109b).
(The Arizal explains that the spies knew that the Jews of the Generation of the Desert, were on a spiritual plane that was too great for the Land of Israel to hold. Their crime was not believing that Moshe Rabbeinu had the ability to unite all the spiritual worlds and levels in such a way that God could call this world His home.
Story 2: Rachav’s story, despite a most unpromising beginning, has a much happier ending. Rachav was a Kanaanite. She was extremely beautiful (Megilah 15a) and at the tender age of ten began her occupation as a prostitute (Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua 9). She was so successful during her 40-year career that every noblemen visited her (ibid.). It may have been very glamorous, but certainly doesn’t seem to be a recipe for spiritual success! Yet Rachav married none other than Yehoshua, Moshe Rabbeinu’s successor! She had descendants who served in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) where they were privileged to utter God’s ineffable Name. Some were prophets, one of whom was Yechezkel. What did she do to merit all this?
Rachav looked to kindness. When Kalev and Pinchas came to spy out the land, the Kanaanite authorities were hunting for them. At the risk of her life Rachav hid them. This kindness was so great that Hashem considered it a personal favor (Bamidbar Rabbah 8:9).1 However, when she prayed she made no mention of this. Rather she prayed simply, “Hashem, I sinned with three, Forgive me with three”
These two stories have the same lesson just with a slightly different twist. The Great ‘Tzadikkim’ who were sent as spies started out as great tzadikim and ended up losing out on their place in olam haba. Whereas Rachav started out as a mere prostitute by the age of 10 and then ended her life being the mother of all kohanim in the world aswell as mother of some of the prophets.
The lesson is no matter where we start in life, it is what we achieve and where we end up that matters. We should all strive for what we know is right like rachav, we may not all start on the right path but ending on the right path is what we should all look for. If you are lucky enough to be born a ‘tzaddik’ or on a high level, don’t rest on your morals you still have far to go before you can end on a high.
So, what’s your story? How will it end?

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