After the tribes request to be given their portion of land on the other side of the Jordan River, Moshe responds with a question: “Why do you dishearten Bnei Yisroel from crossing over to the land that Hashem has given them?” (translation by Tachash)
By requesting to stay on the East Bank of the Jordan because the grazing land was no good there, Moshe was concerned that they would leave a bad impression about going to Israel in the eyes of the rest of the nation. People would hear of the request and think that maybe other lands are better, maybe Israel is not so good, etc.. maybe, as Rashi says, they are afraid of going to battle and that would make others afraid and weakened as well, etc.. Moshe goes on and brings up the sin of the spies and makes a comparison of the impression they are leaving to what the spies did.
A person has to be very careful of his actions that they not influence negatively on other people. That is true in every issue that one should be careful from not giving a bad impression, but especially so when referring to the Land of Israel. Moshe was comparing the impression they were leaving to the act of the spies, who actively tried to dissuade the Jews from entering the Land!
David Shirel of Hebron told me a story last week, and this passuk reminded me of it.
David Shirel is the manager of the English department of Manhigut Yehudit. He and his family went to Safed last week for a few days of vacation. This was just before the Katyushas started falling. On their last day of vacation the katyushas began falling and the residents of northern Israel were beginning to clear out to find safer places. As they are getting ready to leave to go back home, his children said, “Abba, we cannot leave!” He asked why not?
The response from his children was, “If we leave, we will be giving people an impression that we are running away and that is wrong! We cannot give over that impression!”
That is exactly what Moshe is concerned about in our parsha. What you do must be done with concern over the impression you are leaving about Israel. Make sure it is a good one.