On Thursday night, and this past Shabbos, we continued our discussion of material by Leo Levy, related to the importance of doing productive work, known as melacha. This Shabbos we also discussed parsha Shelach, including commentary by Rav Yeager. David Schlesinger led discussion.
We discussed that doing productive work is a Torah mitzvah. We can see this from noting that Hashem did work for 6 days, when he actually had the power to create everything instantly. We discussed how Hashem did this, in order to show us that this is what he wants us to do. We also discussed passages from the Gemara in which work is referred to as a mitzvah, with respect to being permitted to board a boat within 3 days of Shabbos.
We discussed how work is good for us and goes beyond being just necessary. This is why we need to be told to work. Doing work helps give us a feeling of accomplishment and supports our happiness. When we do not work, we often have feelings of boredom and/or emptiness, at least I do.
Brett commented that he often sees a swagger in people when they are positively participating in things, such as work. We discussed how work in this world can bring contentment in the next world. In the world to come we can look back on the positive contributions we made through our work.
Many of us do work by making a living, however we discussed that those who are unemployed, retired, stay at home parents, full time students, do work as well. Work includes creating things, gardening, fixing and much more. Basically, we want to participate in creation within the physical world.
This Shabbos we discussed parsha Shelach. Harold Katz, a regular reader of the notes, mentioned to me that this is a very sad parsha. In the parsha, we send spies into Israel and they come back with a bleak report, that we should not attempt to conquer the land. Dave W mentioned the idea that the walls that were built around our enemies in Israel were actually signs of weakness, and we should not have come back with such a bleak report. It was simply that we had a bad attitude.
We discussed that we had a very bad attitude back in the times of the parsha. We discussed how back then, as well as today, attitudes can shape and change reality. If we do not think we can do something – whether it was the Jews contemplating going into the land of Israel – or ourselves in current modern day life - we are licked from the start and won’t get it done. We discussed how in order to accomplish our goals, it is necessary to believe that we can do so!
We discussed that attitude and how we react to things, can be more important than the actual events that happen to us. David commented that his Dad, Rav. Dr. George Schlesinger, would often say there are people with terrible things happening to them, yet they somehow seem to be content, and it is because of their attitude and how they react.
We discussed the different views of Rashi and the Rambam with respect to the parsha. Rashi’s opinion was that sending spies into Israel in the first place was showing a lack of faith in Hashem. Rambom’s opinion was that if we are sending spies into Israel in order to access the situation, then that is not necessarily showing a lack of faith. We discussed that it would seem that Rambam would have the burden of proof. However, Dave W mentioned that Hashem did say “go if you want to”, which would seem to support the view of Rambam.
We discussed how Hashem was a lot more forgiving with the sin of the Golden Calf. The sin in this case was not believing in Hashem at all, However it may be that we believed in Hashem although we needed a way to relate to him. The remedy for all this was building the mishkan. With the sin of the spies, we believed in Hashem, however we did not have faith in him. Hashem was a lot less forgiving with the sin of the spies and sent us into the desert for an entire generation.
Finally, we discussed how in order to achieve our goals we need to have the help and assistance of Hashem. This applies in the times of the parsha as well as today. At the same time that we need the help of Hashem, it is necessary that we do our part.
This is a summary of what we discussed. No halachic rulings are intended or should be inferred.