Monday, July 24, 2006

A test drive

Parshat Devarim

Moshe begins his review of the events of the travels through the dessert. He gets to the tale of the sending of the spies to Israel and he says that you came to me and wanted to send spies, etc.. In 1:23 Moshe says, “the idea was good in my eyes.”

Rashi aks if Moshe approved of the idea, why does he seem to be criticizing them? He explains that it is like a car salesman (he actually uses donkey instead of car, but I am paraphrasing). A guy is trying to sell a car. A customer comes in and asks questions. Finally he asks if he can take it for a test ride. The saleman says of course. Than he asks what about uphill? Downhill? In the sun? In the rain? Etc.. and the saleman keeps on responding in the affirmative.

When the buyer sees that the seller has nothing to hide and is willing to let him test it under any condition, he says I have no need for a test drive, I see from your confidence that nothing is wrong with it and I will buy it right now.

The same is true with Moshe. He thought that by his displaying confidence and agreeing to send the spies to Israel, they would say that if Moshe is so confident that everything there is ok that he is even willing to let us send spies, it must be fine and they would drop the idea of spies and just go in.

My question is, why would Moshe think his confidence would inspire them? What is the comparison to the car salesman – after all, the car salesman knows the specs of the car and where it works and has problems. His confidence really would inspire a potential customer. However, Moshe never saw the Land of Israel that he would have any reason to have confidence in what he was offering them? Why should his sales pitch inspire them when they knew that all his info was only second hand?

Moshe spoke directly with God and that is where his information came from. Moshe heard how great the Land of Israel is directly from the mouth of God. He was not trying to pass off bad information – he was passing on the word of God. He was so in tune with God and so in sync with God and Gods will that if God said the Land is great, Moshe can confidently say it as well, as if he had even seen it himself. Moshe had no doubts whatsoever of Gods intentions and sincerity.

That is why he assumed his confidence would inspire the buyer. However, he “forgot” that they were not on the same level as him. They were doubters. They found reasons to complain and doubt Gods words and abilities.

That is why he thought he would inspire them, but they refused to accept his inspiration.


socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Nice analogy! Thanks

shaya g said...

actually raf, it's a nice thought, but I have a problem with your explanation. You are basically saying Moshe tried a bluff and the Jews called him on it. Ok. BUT, Moshe has been pushing the "land of milk and honey" for 1.5 years to the jews. they kept hearing it was gods land and how great it was. yet they still asked for spies. Why do you think that now he would inspire them with his confidence when up untill now they obviously weren't inspired by the same words? In fact, your explanation raises questions on everything that happened bad in the desert. Moshe apparently was unable to inspire them very much. The slav, snakes, mann, water, korach, etc... all should not have happened according to your explanation of inspiration. yet, these happenings occured.
My personal feeling is that Moshe felt as he did when he later hit the rock. He thought he had some leeway here with the Jews. he thought maybe like the mann and slav, proof is needed. God could have said, no meat and too bad. instead he gave meat and then overdid it as a punishment. Moshe may have felt similarily here as well. Do it, but there will be reprecussions.

just a thought.

Rafi G said...

Shaya - you misunderstood me. Maybe I was not clear. Moshe was not trying to pull one over them and they called his bluff. He was so in tune with Hashem that he really thought how great it was, even though he never saw it. He was so convinced, just by his relationship with Hashem, that he knew the land was great. He had no doubts. He did not even realize the people could have thought otherwise...
He was not bluffing, and they called him on it. He was giving over his true feelings. The problem was they were not on the same level as Moshe and they were not buying. They said, how does he know, he never saw the land!!?? They took nothing that Hashem said at face value, but doubted everything (all the way through the desert), while Moshe accepted everything.
That was the difference between them and why Moshe's agreement did not stop them from wanting to send spies..

shaya g said...

no - i agree was was convinced, but nor was he out of tune with the people. he calls them kvetches many times. he was actually very in tune with their wants and reasons and kept getting frustrated with them. yes he believed. but he knew they didn't. pashut pshat seems to be that they called his bluff. your explanation makes moshe sound like a lousy leader out of touch with his people. In fact, it was the opposite. he knew all too well what they wanted.

Rafi G said...

some might say it is a bit blasphemous to suggest he was out of touch with the people, and thinking about it, he was chosen as leader specifically because he was so concerned over every single subject under his responsibility (think back to the original story of the sheep and the burning bush).

But I have no problem saying he might have been out of touch with them. Look at all that happened in the dessert. Yes, he was a great leader. He looked out for their needs. He defended them valiantly numerous times when God decided he had had enough of them and was going to destroy them. he provided for them as a successful intermediary countless times. However, he was constantly surprised by their requests. he even said so by the misonnenim (I think) when they were complaining about lacking cucumbers and watermelon (in the desert!) (though I have to look back to find when he complained about them) and he was definitely shocked by their behavior when he came down from the mountain and found them dancing around a golden calf, etc...

Moshe was a great leader and he cared for his charges, but I have no problem saying he misjudged them in certain aspects of their commitment and faith. (I have no problem because a very wise Rabbi recently explained something to me to answer a question of mine by saying that it could be Aharons intentions were not 100% lshem shamayim, regarding something Aharon had done that I asked about - if he could say that, I have no problem saying this!!!)

shaya g said...

okee dokee

blasphemous!! - that's our middle name!!!!