Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

It’s All About Attitude


No one likes surprises in life.

I was recently on a trip to Eretz Yisroel. It was a whirlwind of visiting married children and relatives, and recharging spiritual batteries.

It was the second to last day of my (too short) trip, and after a very long day, I contemplated the next day’s schedule. I was supposed to meet with a nephew in his yeshiva, meet with someone else, and go to see a gadol before boarding a midnight flight back to New York. On a whim, at about midnight, I decided to email my travel agent to confirm that my flight was at 11:40 p.m. Within minutes, an email came flying back. 11:40 is correct, but it is a.m., not p.m. What?! That means that I had to be on the way to the airport in a few hours, early in the morning!

I tried to change my ticket, but everything was full. I was upset. I had an entire day planned. I wasn’t ready for this. I was sure it was p.m….

My initial reaction was to try to find someone to blame. I was upset, really upset. My plans had been upended. I was nervous about the next day. I had to be up very early to daven and to cancel whatever I had scheduled. I had to figure out how to get home from the airport once I landed. As a result, I couldn’t sleep the entire night before the flight. It just didn’t seem fair.

Indeed, it is natural to become bent out of shape when things don’t go the way we envisioned. But I decided to stop and think.

I suddenly remembered a thought I once heard relevant to this week’s parsha and it gave me tremendous chizuk.

Hatovah Hee?! Or Hatovah Hee!

In this week’s parsha, we learn about the meraglim. We all know the story. Hashem promised the Bnei Yisroel that they would inherit Eretz Yisroel. They were already on their way to Eretz Yisroel as per Hashem’s promise, but they wanted to check out the land first to analyze the best way to conquer it, etc. Hashem was not happy with their request, but He let them go ahead with it.

The posuk teaches us that before they left, Moshe gave them instructions. “Look at the land,” he told them. “See what it is like. Look at the nation that lives there. Are they strong or weak, many or few?”

The posuk then continues, “And how is the land in which it dwells? Is it good or is it bad?”

The Chiddushei Harim explains that although Moshe Rabbeinu ostensibly asked them to check out the land and tell him if it was good or bad, Moshe Rabbeinu already knew that the land was good. Moshe Rabbeinu knew that Hashem wanted them to conquer it. So, what was he really telling them? He was telling them that they should recognize for themselves that the land was good. They should choose to see the good in the land.

The Chiddushei Harim explains that Moshe was telling them, “Look at the land that they inhabit – hatovah hee.” Moshe Rabbeinu was telling them, “Don’t ask hatovah hee, with a question mark. Don’t ask, ‘Is it good?’ Rather, say, ‘Hatovah hee!’ with an exclamation point. It is good! Even ‘im ra,’ if it appears to be bad, say, “Hatovah hee!”

Even if it Doesn’t Look Good…

“Think about it,” Moshe was saying. “If Hashem told us to conquer the land and promised us that we would inherit the land, then it is surely good!”

Moshe Rabbeinu was begging them to see the good even if it seemed to be bad on the outside.

He was telling them, and us, not to be hasty, not to be fooled or tempted to believe what our eyes seem to see. Even when we think that what our eyes are seeing is bad, we should try to see the good. He was reminding them, and us, to have emunah in Hashem’s promise even when what appears to the human eye seems to be the opposite.

The Nisayon of Why?!

One of the great nisyonos that many of us face is that when we have a setback, we get all tzubrochen. We despair and wonder, “Why did Hashem do this to me? Why is this happening?” At those times, we only see the dark clouds; we only see what is right in front of us, without being able to realize that Hashem has a plan. Our view down here, in this world of darkness, is very limited.

If, however, we can transcend this very shortsighted view and have the emunah to realize that Hashem has a plan, and if Hashem is doing this, it must be good and it must be tailor-made for me, then, even though I really don’t understand, new horizons open up.

When something that seems bad happens, it is a good idea to stop and think, “How does Hashem want me to look at this setback? If I could take off my gashmiusdige glasses and be able to look at this in a more ruchniusdige way, what would I see?”

Seeing the Good Without Question

There is a posuk from later in the parsha that talks about the reaction of the Bnei Yisroel after they received the dire report from the meraglim. The posuk says, “So, they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a [new] leader and return to Mitzrayim.’”

In Sefer Devorim, Moshe repeats the entire parsha of the meraglim in detail to the Bnei Yisroel, but there he says something that is not specifically written in this week’s parsha – the time it actually took place. It says there, “…and you did not desire to go up [to Eretz Yisroel].”

The meforshim wonder: We do not see anywhere in Parshas Shelach that they did not want to go. In fact, it says that they sent meraglim, and only because the meraglim came back with such a catastrophic report did they decide that they needed to appoint a new leader and return to Mitzrayim rather than risk getting crushed in Eretz Yisroel by the giants who lived there.

One of the gedolei hador once explained that the words of this posuk are testimony that even before the meraglim came back with their negative report, they did not want to go to live in Eretz Yisroel. How do we see this? Moshe, when he was reviewing the event with the meraglim, says, “…and you did not desire to go up [to Eretz Yisroel]. I reminded you to see the good, but you didn’t want to see the good.”

In other words, if they would have really wanted to see the good, they would have seen the good.

Every person has setbacks at different points in their lives. Often, we become so overwhelmed by the difficulty of these setbacks that we just can’t bring ourselves to contemplate that any good could possibly come out of it. The Chiddushei Harim is telling us that we must learn from Moshe Rabbeinu, who told them, “Hatovah hee! It is good!”

Let us always try to find the good in every incident that transpires in our lives, and let us follow in the path of Dovid Hamelech, who says in Tehillim, “Ure’ei betuv Yerushalayim – Look at the good of Yerushalayim.” Perhaps we should take that one step further and seek out not just the good in Yerushalayim, but in every incident that transpires in our lives. If you look for it and are determined to see the good, you will find the good.



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