Yigdal Nah –
In this week’s Torah portion, the Jews mess up with the sin of the spies (chayt ha’meraglim). The whole story is quite tragic. The Jews were poised to enter Israel. They send a posse of spies to check out the lay of the land…and out of twelve spies, ten come back speaking ill of the land. They speak so convincingly to the people that, despite the compelling testimony of the two spies who were urging them to go for it, the nation decides they’d rather head back to Egypt then head to the promised land.
The first thing we have to understand is why the ten spies were dead set against the switch from desert domicile to lush land of vegetation. Herein is a struggle many of us have to face every now and then. A baby is taken care of fully – diapered, cleaned, fed on demand. Woe is us if we remain babies for us forever, no matter how easy it might be. Spiritually, there was that infant stage our nation underwent in the desert. All you had to do was sit and learn and the manna came from heaven, the water from the rock, the clothing grew and washed on you…it was quite clear G-d was taking care of us. Now, these leaders realized that our nation was being asked to “graduate” to another mode of spirituality. In Israel we would have to plough, plant, water, hoe, reap…and still understand our connection with G-d. That, they decided, as way too hard, beyond their capabilities. And so like the little child who doesn’t want to walk, or the college student who never wants to graduate, or like anyone who doesn’t want to take the next maturation step, these folks decided to try to stall the clock and not go on to another level. (A girl who was once institutionalized once explained that many in the psych ward felt that way – that it was way easier to hide there from real life.)
G-d at this point offers to Moshe that He will wipe out the nation and begin a whole nation starting with Moshe. Moshe pleads for his people…and one of the things he pleads is “Yigdal” -he begs G-d to “become bigger”.
We often think we are big when we show our might- – when we “let folks have it.” But here Moshe is saying something that Pirkei Avos also notes, “ayzehoo gibor…who is really strong – one who can conquer his yetzer- his emotion.” Moshe is saying that, yes, when G-d’s punishing might is in effect it makes folks fear and acknowledge Him. But Moshe wants G-d to demonstrate His Might – even bigger- to the point where even with a warrant for anger, G-d holds back and is able to let mercy be the dominating force.
G-d did so. May we all learn to do so in our own lives.