1. The central topic of this week’s Torah portion is the sending of the spies. The very fact that they were sent on this mission raises questions. Noting that the Torah states, שלח לך — “You send,” Rashi comments that G‑d did not order Moshe to send the spies. Rather, the Jews came to Moshe and requested that spies be sent. Moshe consulted G‑d, who consented to such a possibility, but left the decision up to Moshe.

This represents a departure from the established precedent. Previously, Moshe had brought several matters suggested by the Jews to G‑d, e.g., the offering of the second Paschal sacrifice, the offering of the sacrifices of the princes. In all these instances, he did not act until he received specific instructions from G‑d. In this instance, the fact that he did not receive explicit instructions of this nature should have raised doubts in his mind. If so, why did he, nevertheless, decide to send the spies? Since G‑d had already promised the Jews that Eretz Yisrael was a good land and ordered them to enter it immediately, why was it necessary to send spies? Sending them opened up the possibility — as ultimately transpired — for the Jews to err and not to desire to enter Eretz Yisrael.

Furthermore, we find that Moshe, himself, had doubts about the success of the mission and prayed for Yehoshua, “May G‑d save you from the counsel of the spies.” Despite the fact that at the outset the people he chose for the mission were righteous and leaders of the people, he, nevertheless, felt it necessary to pray on behalf of Yehoshua. If so, why did he send the spies?1

The concept can be explained as follows: By leaving the matter up to Moshe’s choice, G‑d opened up a new realm of service, the possibility of serving Him even when no direct command is involved. A person must decide how to behave, hoping that he is acting in a manner where his individual will reflects G‑d’s will despite the fact that G‑d has not given him any explicit instructions.

To elaborate: There are two types of service of G‑d: a) The fulfillment of His commands. This reflects the nullification of our minds and wills to fulfill His desires. To quote Pirkei Avos: “Negate your will before His.” b) Service in the realm of reshus, where there is no explicit Divine command. There a person’s service involves working on his mind and his will until they reflect G‑d’s will. To refer to the above Mishnah: “Make your will as His will.”

The fulfillment of the latter service requires the granting of a special Divine potential. Thus, the Rambam writes concerning free choice:

Freedom of choice is granted to every man. If he desires to tend to a positive path..., the potential is his... There is nothing holding him back... This concept is a fundamental principle. It is a pillar of Torah and mitzvos.

Though we also have free choice whether to fulfill mitzvos or not, the very fact that G‑d has commanded us to perform these acts influences our choice since, by nature, every Jew desires to fulfill G‑d’s will. It is in the areas where there is no explicit command and yet man chooses to do good, that our potential for choice is expressed in the most complete manner.

In particular, the potential to choose is twofold: a) The very potential to choose, the ability to act independently, is itself a unique power. The natural state of creation precludes that man be under the dominion of his Creator. It is only because of G‑d’s gift that he has the potential to choose. b) G‑d grants choice through the Torah’s command, “And you shall choose life.” This implies that G‑d gives us the potential to choose good.

Both of these aspects are more clearly expressed in those areas where there is no explicit Divine command. When there is a Divine command to fulfill a particular mitzvah, man’s choice is influenced and his fulfillment of the command depends on the infinite power of He who gave these commandments. However, in those areas where there is no explicit command, man has a challenge, to use his limited potential to make the correct choice. Even in these areas, the potential to do so is granted to him.

Based on the above, we can understand why Moshe sent the spies: When G‑d did not tell Moshe whether or not to send the spies, Moshe rejoiced at the opportunity for acting with free choice, without being “forced” by G‑d’s command,2 rather man’s own free will could parallel G‑d’s desires.

On this basis, we can also understand why it was this matter, the sending of the spies, which G‑d left up to the Jews’ free choice. Sending the spies was a preparatory step for the entry into Eretz Yisrael. The settlement of Eretz Yisrael was the ultimate goal of the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah, for it allows for the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d in the lower worlds.3 For this reason, the manner in which the Jews approached the conquest of Eretz Yisrael was intended to be carried out in a natural manner, through war. Therefore, it was proper to follow the natural course of behavior that any army would take when approaching a foreign land, sending spies.

The spies, however, made one mistake. They interpreted their mission as also leaving up to man’s discretion whether to enter into Eretz Yisrael or not. This error caused their entire mission to be ill-fated. However, at the outset, their mission was intended to assist in the transformation of Eretz Yisrael into a dwelling place for G‑d.

For this reason, the individuals Moshe chose were righteous and fit to receive the extra Divine potential that is associated with a mission that involves free choice. Although Moshe prayed for Yehoshua, he did so without any premonition of evil. Had he any negative suspicions, he would have surely prayed for the entire company. The fact he did not, indicates that this was a special measure of favor intended only for Yehoshua who was “a servant who never left the tent” of his master.4

A similar concept is also emphasized by the conclusion of the portion, the passage dealing with tzitzis. Tzitzis has an advantage over other mitzvos because it leads to the fulfillment of all the mitzvos as the verse states: “And you shall see it and you shall remember all the mitzvos and perform them.” To quote our Sages, “the Torah considers [tzitzis] equal to all the other mitzvos and makes their [fulfillment] dependent upon it.” Despite this unique importance, according to Torah law, “a person is not obligated to buy a tallis and wrap himself in it.” Rather, he can wear a garment which does not require tzitzis.

It is possible to explain that G‑d desired to leave the fulfillment of this mitzvah up to a person himself. He must desire to perform this commandment which will lead him to the fulfillment of all the other mitzvos.

There is also a connection between the above and the portion of the Mishneh Torah associated with the present day, the conclusion of Hilchos Temurah. There the Rambam states:

Even though all of the Torah’s statutes are [Divine] decrees..., it is fit to meditate upon them. Whenever it is possible to explain them rationally, one should do so.

Thus, man must try to establish a connection with the mitzvos in terms which he can relate to. This approach must also be carried into the realm of reshus, areas of life where there is no explicit Torah command regarding what to do and what not to do. In this realm where the decision of how to serve G‑d and how to refine the world is left to man’s choice and decision, man has the obligation to try to have his own personal desires conform to G‑d’s. This is a service which parallels the sending of the spies to discover the proper path of conquering Eretz Yisrael.5

May this service lead to the time when we will “Arise, go up, and take possession of it.” This mentions two ascents, one associated with the redemption from Egypt and one with the Messianic redemption. At that time, we will fulfill all the mitzvos (as alluded to in the mitzvah of Tzitzis)6 and their performance will be permeated by a direct perception of G‑dliness. “Your Master will no longer be concealed and your eyes will perceive your Master.” “The glory of G‑d will be revealed...” May it come immediately, now.

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2. This Shabbos is the 28th (כח) of Sivan. The word כח means “power,” and thus, today is associated with the “power of Sivan,” the third month, which is distinguished by the giving of the Torah. Thus, the 28th of Sivan relates to the “the power of Torah.”

The 28th of Sivan falls within three days of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, the fourth month. One of the distinctions between the third and the fourth months is that the third month is associated with drawing down influence from above, while the fourth month is associated with the service of the lower realm on its own initiative. כ"ח Sivan draws down added power to facilitate this service, not only in regard to the service of Torah and mitzvos which we were commanded to fulfill by the giving of the Torah, but also service in the realm of reshus, the area of our behavior where we have no specific command from G‑d to guide us. The latter service is related to the concept of free choice described above.7

Carrying out this service requires an additional gift of power from G‑d. This power is granted on the 28th of Sivan, the day which expresses “the power of Sivan,” the power of Torah, and prepares us for the service of the month of Tammuz.

There is an added dimension to the above concept. Moshe’s prayer (recorded in this week’s Torah portion), “And now, may the power of G‑d be increased” is associated with the concept of teshuvah. The service of teshuvah reflects man’s potential to serve G‑d on his own initiative in an even deeper manner than the concept of free choice.

A baal teshuvah must transform his heart and break through the barriers created by his negative deeds. This requires drawing down influence from a level of G‑dliness that transcends the Torah. This level is, nevertheless, revealed by the Torah. Indeed, it was when Moshe ascended to receive the Torah that he became conscious of the potential for teshuvah.

The concept of transformation is emphasized by the coming month, the month of Tammuz. Indeed, the very use of the name, Tammuz, as the name of a Jewish month, reflects a transformation since the name is derived from that of a Mesopotamian deity. This concept is also underscored by the fact that this month contains one of the four communal fasts which the Rambam explains will ultimately “be transformed into festivals and days of rejoicing.”

The awareness of this concept is more powerful in the present age after we have witnessed the redemption of the Previous Rebbe on Yud-Beis Tammuz. This redemption is a taste of how ultimately the entire month, including the 17th of Tammuz, will be transformed into “a month of redemption.”

The redemption of Yud-Beis Tammuz is also related to the 28th of Sivan. One of the results of the Previous Rebbe’s redemption was his coming and settling in America. America was referred to as “the lower half of the world,” a place where, according to our Sages, “the Torah was not given.” Thus, bringing the Torah to America is associated with service on our initiative, drawing the Torah into the lowest levels of our world.

That service was given added power on the 28th of Sivan8 when the Previous Rebbe injected new energy into the efforts of spreading Yiddishkeit and Chassidus by founding the institutions, Machne Israel, Kehot and Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. The activities of these institutions have continued even after his passing and receive new energy this year, the fortieth year following that event.

The above concepts must be brought down into deed, for “deed is most essential.” The 28th of Sivan should be set aside for a day of farbrengens. (Indeed, we have seen the positive results of these farbrengens for more than three years running.) These efforts should inspire us to apply more effort in the mission with which we were charged by the Previous Rebbe, spreading Yiddishkeit and spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward. In particular, emphasis should be placed on using the summer months to involve children in programs of Torah education in which for all twenty four hours of the day, they are found in a Torah environment.

May these activities hasten Mashiach’s coming and may he arrive even before the beginning of the month of Tammuz.