“Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars,” observed Augustine in the fifth century, ” and they pass themselves without wondering.”
Moses sent out the spies to, “Ascend here in the south, and climb the mountain. See the Land – how is it? And the people that dwells in it. And how is the Land in which it dwells – is it good or is it bad? Is it fertile or is it lean? Are there trees in it or not.” (Numbers 13:17-20) Moses sent the spies to wonder at the mountains, the rivers, and the trees. They went to observe and wonder about everything except themselves. They even wondered about other people, but of themselves, they said, “We were like grasshoppers in our eyes!” (13:33) No wonder they failed.
We study Torah and wonder at it depth and breadth. We are astounded by its wisdom and insight. We rejoice in our part in the infinite process of discovery. Yet, we seem to be so busy in wonder of Torah that we “pass ourselves without wondering.”
People complain that they are ignorant. They see themselves “like grasshoppers in our eyes.” They focus on their insignificance when compared to the Sages of the Talmud, or Rashi, or Maimonides, or the Vilna Gaon.
So, the portion of the spies ends with the Mitzvah of Tzitzit, Garments of Light. The Torah wants us to see our inner light in all its beauty and magnificence, and wonder over our potential and promise. To wonder about ourselves is to wonder about Torah. Our little grasshoppers above may be wearing Tzitzit, but theirs are not Garments of Light.
When we are able to wonder about ourselves and connect that to our wonder over Torah, and the mountains, and the ocean and the stars, our lives will become truly wondrous. We must study Torah and observe the Mitzvot with a sense of wonder about ourselves. We will find ourselves enwrapped in Garments of Light.
What will we discover about ourselves? I wonder….
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Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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