The drama unfolded quickly. The Spies came back from their expedition and reported that our enemies within Eretz Yisrael were giants and much too powerful to overcome, and that it was a bad land to live in for it “eats its inhabitants”. With just these few short sentences, the Spies succeeded in creating a storm of panic, anxiety, and fear amongst the Jewish nation. In fact, the entire Jewish nation, en masse, were literally brought to tears, and cried “it would have been better if we died in Egypt or the wilderness! …Why is Hashem bringing us to this land to die by the sword?” (14:1-3).
Now, I can understand that tensions were high, but still, did the Jews really believe that Hashem had taken such great care of them for so long just to abandon them now? This was the same Hashem who had rescued them from slavery through open miracles, split the sea to save them from the Egyptians, fed them Mun (Manna) which rained from the heavens, and took care of their every need in the barren desert through miraculous means. Could the nation who had witnessed all of this have really believed that the Promised Land was actually bad, and that Hashem’s leading them there was some sort of elaborate plan to execute them, just because things looked bleak? How can we even begin to understand their reaction?
Furthermore, R’ Moshe Feinstein explains that whenever the Torah describes an episode of human behavior that seems to be unrelatable to us, it is in order to teach us that indeed if we are not careful, we too are at risk of following their example (Dorash Moshe, Shemos). This makes the question even more perplexing and important to answer: how could the Jews have behaved in such a way, doubting Hashem’s perfect track record of performing countless miracles for them and only doing what was for the nation’s absolute benefit; and how could we possibly be at risk of following their irrational behavior?
A very wealthy man had a son who was deviating from the path of Torah. Despite this, he loved his son unconditionally and gave him everything that his heart desired. Although he encouraged his son to do his best to perform the mitzvos, he never forced it upon him nor did he hold back any love nor gifts when his son did not do so. When his son turned 16, he told his father that he wanted to go to a distant, far less religious school. The father reluctantly agreed, but instructed his son, "At the very least, please make sure that you put on your Tefillin every day so that you stay connected to Hashem." The boy agreed. A month later, the boy sent a letter to his father asking for more money to buy some basic necessities. Instead of his normal practice of providing his son with as much money as he desired, the father sent him back a letter saying, "Pray to Hashem, and He will give you what you need." The boy was furious at his father's response. Never before in his entire life had his father withheld money from him even when it came to luxuries, let alone for his basic needs. "How could he do this to me?!", he fumed. He waited a few days and wrote back, "I prayed to Hashem, but He didn't help. Please, send me more money." The father again sent a letter saying, "Strengthen yourself my son, and pray to Hashem. He will help." The boy was livid. After this exchange happened a third time, he had no choice but to return home. The first thing he said to his father as he stormed into his house was, "Dad, you don't care about me! Why couldn't you send me more money? You must hate me!”, he concluded. The father looked into the eyes of his son and asked gently, “after taking such good care of you and only doing what’s in your best interest for all of these many years, don’t I have a good enough track record to earn your trust? I told you how to get more money. All you had to do was pray”. "I did pray, but it didn't work!", the boy screamed. The father walked over to his son’s suitcase and slowly opened his Tefillin bag. The boy was shocked to see thousands of dollars folded up inside. (Based on a story told by R’ Shalom Schwadron zt”l)
R’ Shimshon Pincus (in Tifferes Shimshon) explains that as ridiculous as it seems, we are often guilty of doing the same thing that the Jewish nation, as well as the boy in the story, were guilty of: We often get so annoyed when something doesn't go the way we want it to, that we completely disregard our Father’s incredible track record of bestowing so much goodness upon us. When things seem to go horribly wrong, we are quick to feel that Hashem purposely let an evil befall us. Shouldn’t we have the same incredulous questions that we asked on the reaction of the Jewish nation, on ourselves? When things seem to be bleak, why don’t WE focus on Hashem’s incredible track record of bestowing so much goodness and blessing upon us, similarly to how we expected the Jewish nation to do so? Think about it; A person can have it all - good health, no financial debt, family, friends, food, etc. Yet, if one big thing goes wrong, we tend to say in frustration “Hashem, WHY ME?!!”, and get frustrated with our Father in Heaven. Why do we feel so abandoned when something seems to go badly? How can we be so bad at math? Hashem has already done millions of favors for us day after day, proving time and time again that He loves us and is in control. If one thing seems to go horribly “wrong", shouldn’t we realize that it was surely with precise calculation and for our absolute good?
The reaction of the Jews after the report of the Spies, as well as that of the boy in the story, are unfortunately, typical human behavior and tendency, and not uncommon. Therefore, as R’ Moshe Feinstein explains, unless one proactively works on battling this behavior, they are destined to repeat it, as we have all experienced on some occasion or another.
The root of what caused the Jewish nation to panic and cry real tears over being “forced” to enter Eretz Yisrael, stemmed from them not appreciating all the good that Hashem did for them, thus causing them to feel that Hashem was leading them to a bad place. How do we rectify this sin? How can we conquer this human tendency to feel abandoned by Hashem when things appear to go wrong? How do we internalize Hashem’s love for us with every fiber of our being? We can start by internalizing all the millions of good things that Hashem does for us on a regular basis. Think about it: why does Hashem require us to make separate brachos (blessings) on every little pleasure and benefit that we experience throughout our day? Why must I make a separate bracha over my breakfast, using the bathroom, taking a quick drink of water or coffee, etc.? Couldn’t I just make one bracha in the morning thanking Hashem in general for food and for taking care of my bodily needs (just like we only make one Birchas HaTorah in the morning, that works for all the Torah learning that we do the entire day)? The answer is that the requirement to make brachos is not for Hashem’s benefit, but rather, for our own. By having to make SO many brachos each and every day, we are “forced” to acknowledge how truly blessed and loved we are by Hashem. Each and every snack or meal I eat, and every pleasure I experience, requires me to acknowledge that Hashem is intimately involved in my life and constantly giving so much to me.
The next time you make a bracha, take a moment to internalize that Hashem must really love you if He decided to provide you with this benefit. If you get into the habit of doing so, you will begin to feel more and more loved by Hashem with each and every bracha that you make. Additionally, even during tough times, you will feel an inner peace as a result of the understanding that if the same loving and kind Hashem who has taken such great care of you until now, has brought you to this situation, it must be for the best. Nothing is more valuable than the inner serenity and happiness that this affords. May we all merit to internalize this by constantly recognizing all of the good that Hashem showers upon us.