Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shlach - Yehoshua and Kalev

The commentators discuss the difference between Yehoshua and Kalev in the way they reacted to the meraglim and the way they are treated in the Parsha. Yehoshua was known to be Moshe Rabbeinu's disciple and would not have been believed had he attempted to pretend that he was going along with them. Had he attempted to try this policy, he would not have been allowed to back out and the damage to the community would have been immense. His obvious opposition to the meraglim could have led to his death as a result of "friendly fire". As a result, Moshe Rabbeinu had to daven for him and change his name from Hoshea to Yehoshua.
On the other hand, Kalev was able to successfully pretend to go along with the meraglim and then attempt to give the Bnei Yisrael the truth. Shakespeare illustrated this technique with his famous "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" speech, given by Marc Antony in Act III, scene 2 of the play Julius Caesar. In fact, he may have gotten the idea from Kalev. In order to do this, Kalev went to the Mearas HaMachpela in order to daven for the strength to resist the meraglim and to be able to do what was right. He needed this as the longer the pretense went on, the harder it would be to recognize that the moment had come to drop the pretense and speak out openly.
There is a famous study ( performed by Solomon Asch in 1958, in which a group of people where asked which of three lines was the same size as a reference line. All the participants except one were deliberately primed to give an obviously wrong answer.
To Asch's surprise, 37 of the 50 subjects conformed themselves to the 'obviously erroneous' answers given by the other group members at least once, and 14 of them conformed on more than 6 of the 'staged' trials. When faced with a unanimous wrong answer by the other group members, the mean subject conformed on 4 of the 'staged' trials.
Thus, since Yehoshua was going to be by himself, he needed the extra strength in order to maintain the correct position.
On the other hand, Kalev was able to rely on Yehoshua as an "ally". The Asch study found.
However, the subjects conformed much less if they had an "ally" In some of his experiments, Asch instructed one of the confederates to give correct answers. In the presence of this nonconformist, the real subjects conformed only one fourth as much as they did in the original experiment.
As a result, Kalev was able to strengthen himself in order to attempt to stop the destruction. He still needed to daven at the Mearas haMachpels in order to ensure that he had the strength to recognize the time to make his move. The main flaw in this tactic is that one must recognize that it is time to make the move. One could continue to delay with the rationalization that one is "working from within" or will make the attempt later when it is "more likely to succeed". This is similar to what happened before World War II. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought that he would be able to use "quiet diplomacy" to prevent the coming war. Instead, he convinced the dictators that they could win.
 Kalev knew that this was the poblem that he would face and that is why he went to "kever avos". The avos not only had the strength to fight against the rest of the world, but the wisdom to choose the appropriate tactics. This is why Hashem calls Kalev "avdi", my servant, one of the few people in the Torah to actually earn that title.On the one hand, one needs to "follow orders" and do everything that Hashem wants us to do, just as we learn about Aharon lighting the Menorah. On the other hand, one must be intelligent enough to recognize the appropriate tactics required to accomplish the strategy encompassed by "doing the will of Hashem".
This is the lesson of Yehoshua and Kalev. They used different tactics to accomplish the same strategy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beha'aloscha - Getting "swept up" can be counterproductive

The tribe of Dan was the leader of the last group in the travel across the dessert (10:25).

ונסע דגל מחנה בני דן מאסף לכל המחנת לצבאתם

Then journeyed the banner of the camp of the children of Dan, the collector of all the camps according to their ranks.
The commentaters explain that they "swept up" the lost items that had been left behind as well as all the stragglers who fell behind in the march. If anyone lost an item, they went to the banner of Dan and were able to retrieve it. Rabbi Silber in his drasha this Shabbos explained that there are two reasons that the tribe of Dan was chosen for this position. One was that as the most populous tribe, they were able to spread out along the line of march and ensure that no-one was left behind and that nothing was lost.

The alternate explanation is that the tribe was spiritually weak and actually smuggled idols out of Egypt. This is also shown during the incident of פסל מיכה in Judges. The tribe of Dan in their journey to the north swept up an idol and used it to worship Hashem. Similarly, Yerav'am set up one of the idols in the territory of Dan to ensure that the 10 tribes would not reunite with the tribe of Judah. The other tribes would not have allowed these idols within their territories. In order to ensure that they were able to merit the rewards of following the Torah, Hashem gave them the significant mitzvah of השבת עבידה.

The significant point is that the word used has the connotation of gathering or "sweeping up"

Shortly afterwards (11:4) we have the complaints about the manna and the crying for meat.

והאספסף אשר בקרבו התאוו תאוה

And the rabble that was among them cultivated a craving.
Here again we see the root אספ so that we have the connotation of "those who had been swept up". That is it was those who left Egypt not because they wanted to follow Hashem or get the Torah, but because they had been swept up in the enthusiasm of moment. Notice that they were not overcome by a desire or or actually lacked nourishment, but they deliberately cultivated a desire. If they had been given lamb, they would have complained that they did not have beef. In any event, they had brought out vast flocks of sheep and cattle from Egypt. The nostalgia for fish (which only the poorest of the poor would be given) shows this. They deliberately chose to "remember" something that a dessert environment would not have.

The commentators state that this problem first arose with the ערב רב ("mixed multitude"), those slaves who came along with the Jews because they saw that Hashem was stronger and they wanted to get out. However, they did not want to serve Hashem nor did they want to follow the standard of morality required by עם קדוש (holy nation). Similarly, they knew that when the people came into the land, they would have to earn their own living and could not continue to be supported by the masters. Even in the dessert, the "free food" was restricted in that it had to be gathered by the individual and was not handed to them. The medrash say that the ease of gathering was directly proportional to the level of spirituality. These people were on the lowest level even though they were not as low as the 80% who Rashi says died in Egypt.

We learn from this that those who work and strive to act properly are rewarded by being able to improve themselves. On the other hand, those who merely allow themselves to be "swept up" by the enthusiasm of the moment (no matter how good the cause) are just as liable to be swept up in the mob enthusiasm for an improper cause. We can see this in modern day politics as well.