I started keeping kosher over a decade ago.

I remember the strange sensation of feeling both proud and self-conscious at the same time…

I knew I was making the right decision, yet I felt awkward about explaining to friends that I needed kosher food, or that certain restaurants would no longer work for me. 

A wise family member advised me: “If you know you’re making the right decision, why are you concerned about what people think? This is a commandment from G-d, so do it with confidence. Own it”.

In this week’s Torah portion, twelve spies from the children of Israel go to the land of Canaan. When they return, ten out of the twelve give a negative report. They indicate that entering the land would be dangerous:

“The land through which we have passed…All the people that we saw in it were huge…we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes!”

Bamidbar 13:33

These ten spies freaked out about the idea of entering the land, but this was completely unwarranted! G-d had already assured them of their success in entering the land. 

The same G-d that had sent ten awesome plagues, brought them out of Egypt, and split the sea told the Jewish people that they could do it! They knew what their mission was, and G-d was behind them. 

The Rebbe of Kotzk explained that this declaration, “we were like grasshoppers…in their eyes” was the root of the spies’ sin. They should not have been thinking about how the spies viewed them; the only important thing was how G-d viewed them! And G-d had already clearly said that they could – and should – go into the land.

Due to the sin of the spies, G-d decreed that the Jewish people’s entry into the land be delayed forty years. 

We can see that the spies’ mistake had serious consequences. 

Really, the spies’ should have only been concerned with what G-d thought. 

What was their issue? 

It was that they began worrying more about others’ perceptions of them…

Have you ever made this mistake?

We know our mission as the Jewish people. Let’s own it. 

Let us learn from the spies, and remember Whose opinion really matters. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Danielle Altonaga