At my son’s eighth grade Seudas Preida (lit. “departure meal,” or graduation dinner), each graduate was asked to say a brief thought. My wife gets the credit for finding a very apt thought on this week’s reading.
The Torah tells us that the spies went into the Land of Cana’an and came back with an “evil report.” But the spy Kalev, trying to counterbalance what the others said, told the nation to go up and inherit the land, “for we can certainly do it.”
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Rashi, quotes from the Babylonian Talmud that even if Moshe had told us to build ladders to climb up to Heaven, we should do that, because we would succeed.
To that, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l asks a question. Why mention ladders, when no ladder is capable of reaching Heaven? What’s the point?
Reb Moshe answers that if we want to achieve spiritual height, first we have to do everything humanly possible — and then HaShem will help us, beyond what we can do.
If we want to live a higher life, we can’t sit back and say “G-d, help me!” On the contrary, we have to express that desire by doing everything we can on our own. Then, G-d will accelerate our progress beyond what we should be able to do.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org