Choosing Yokes (Shelach)
The more you depend on forces outside yourself, the more you are dominated by them. -Harold Sherman
Moses sends twelve princes of Israel to spy out the land of Canaan, the land God promised to the nation of Israel. Ten of the twelve spies come back with a frightening, negative report that sows panic amongst the people. God is furious with this development and tells Moses he will destroy the nation and start anew with just Moses and his descendants. Moses successfully intercedes and God diminishes the decree from outright destruction to instead have the cowardly, faithless population wander in the desert for forty years. The next generation will be the ones to conquer Canaan.
The Bat Ayin on Numbers 14:17 explains that part of the failure of the generation of the desert was their lack of faith in God. They believed in the superficial strength of their enemies and did not believe in the supernatural powers that God had already demonstrated with the ten plagues of Egypt, the splitting of the sea and the numerous other miracles they experienced in the desert. By accepting and fearing the mundane reality of the physical strength of their enemies, they in a sense neutralized God’s possible intervention.
The Bat Ayin explains that the converse is also true. By accepting God’s strength, God’s power, God’s desire and ability to intervene in our lives, by accepting what the Sages call “the Yoke of Heaven,” we neutralize and overcome our mundane, physical adversaries. By becoming full-fledged subjects of God’s monarchy, we throw off the yoke of earthly monarchies and overlords. Not only are political rulers nullified, but somehow even the chains and burdens of a livelihood are lifted. The dictum of the Sages states: “Whoever accepts upon themselves the yoke of Heaven, they have lifted from them the yoke of rulers and the yoke of livelihood.”
The Bat Ayin adds that a particularly strong expression of accepting the Yoke of Heaven is by keeping the Sabbath, based on the liturgy: “They will be joyous in Your Kingship, the keepers of the Sabbath.”
Keeping the Sabbath is a clear and obvious demonstration of one’s fealty to God and His directives. By choosing God as our ultimate and only ruler we may free ourselves from the clutches of political rulers and economic control.
May we remember who is the One that is really in charge.
In memory of Ori Yitzhak Iluz, Ohad Dahan and Lia Ben Nun who were killed on the Egyptian border. May God comfort their families among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.