My Best Friend

Shalom aleichem!

Earlier this week, I spoke to one of my oldest friends, Natan. We grew up in Calgary together and he was my best friend. We lost contact during our teenage years, but met up again in Israel in our early twenties — finding that we still had a surprising amount in common.

Anyway, while we were speaking, it dawned on me that the date was June 8th, and if memory served me correctly, it was his birthday. I asked, “Is it your birthday today?”


“Happy birthday!” Remembering that Natan was older than me, I continued, “Did you turn 40?”

“Yes, it’s my 40th birthday. We’ve come a long way from riding bikes behind your house in Calgary.”

* * *
The conversation got me thinking about 40’s. In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach, we read the story of the Spies. Moses sent spies, one representative from each of the 12 Tribes, to scout out the Land of Israel.

Now, the Land of Israel was going to be divided into 12 areas, one for each Tribe. Over the course of 40 days, the Tribal leaders were to spy out the entire Land.

Why was it necessary for them to scout out the entire Land? Would it not have been sufficient for each leader to investigate the area that his tribe was set to inhabit?

Two answers:

1. The Land had not yet been divided according to the Tribes, and therefore, in order for a certain Tribal leader to be certain that he had seen the area for his Tribe, he would need to see the entire land;

2. On a deeper level, the reason that each Tribal leader needed to tour the entire land even though each particular Tribe would settle in one specific area, was the Biblical commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, each leader needed to be reassured that the future living conditions would be good not only for his own tribe, but also that the conditions for someone else’s tribe would be just as good.

A lesson we can take from this is that while many things may have a fairly simple and straightforward reason (in our case, the fact that the Land had not yet been divided), there always needs to be an inner motivation to fulfill the great principle to Love your neighbor as yourself.

Shabbat Shalom,