HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook
[Here is an excerpt from a lecture of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, of blessed memory, explaining to his students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem how it could happen that the Spies in the Wilderness turned their backs on the very foundation of Jewish Nationhood and Torah, the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda said that just as there are levels of Torah knowledge, there are levels of Emunah – faith in G-d. There are people with great faith, and there are others of weak faith, stemming from a mistaken understanding of the Torah.
“Emunah is certainty,” Rav Tzvi Yehuda explained. “Contrasting this is Emunah stemming from philosophical inquiry alone, which can bring about a situation of partial faith. This is the false Emunah, which is mentioned in the Torah in connection with the Spies.”
The Spies were the Torah leaders of the Children of Israel, the heads of the Tribes, who were sent ahead to spy out the Land of Israel after the Jews had departed from Egypt. They came back with a negative report, saying that while the Land itself was good, the Jews would be anihilated by the fierce inhabitants of the Land, intimating that Hashem did not have the power to protect them. Fearing to journey on to the Promised Land and lose their positions of honor and leadership in the nation’s new life in Israel where a different type of leadership was called for, they persuaded the newly-formed Jewish Nation to rebel against Hashem’s oft-repeated command to conquer and dwell in the Holy Land (see the book “Mesillat Yesharim, Ch.19 on Hasidut). Their sin caused the destruction of that generation in the wilderness and led to the destruction of the Temples and exile amongst the nations, (Yalkut Shimoni 1:743).]
HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said:
“Referring to their sin, the Torah says, ‘In this matter, you did not believe in the L-rd your G-d’ (Devarim, 1:32). In this matter, in not making aliyah to Israel, they did not have Emunah. In other matters, they did believe. They believed, and yet they didn’t believe. This is a state of half-Emunah.
“In contrast, the foundation of faith is seen in Avraham Avinu, as it says, ‘And he had Emunah in the L-rd (Bereshit, 15:6). He wasn’t a half-believer. He believed with a complete faith, with ‘Emunah shlema,’ in the language of the Rambam (Thirteen Principles of Faith).
“The Spies in the Wilderness had a deficiency in their Emunah, as it says, ‘Yet you would not go up to Israel’ (Devarim, 1:26). You have Emunah, yet in this matter of aliyah, you don’t have belief. Hashem calls them ‘rebels’ and punished them with death in the wilderness for their unwillingness to journey on to the Promised Land in order to establish the Israelite Nation in the Land of Israel.”
“There are types of ‘Tzaddikim’ who don’t believe, as it says in the Talmud (Sotah 48B). These religious people select words of the Torah and choose between the commandments, saying, ‘This matter is arranged properly by the Almighty. It is very nice, it pleases me, it’s easy to do, therefore I agree to abide. However, this matter is not so pleasing in my eyes.’ This approach to Torah leads to heresy.
“In contrast to this selective Judaism comes the true approach of, ‘Everything that the L-rd said, we will do and listen’ (Shemot, 24:7) We will do it, whether it pleases us or not, whether we intellectually agree, or whether the matter is above our logic.
“When the Torah is seen in its true light, there is no criticism of Hashem and opposition to His commandments. In place of criticism comes cleaving, harmony, and complete Emunah. In contrast, the piecemeal practice of Torah, as exemplified by the tragedy of the Spies, occurs when the Torah isn’t learned in the proper all-encompassion fashion which is Torat Eretz Yisrael.”