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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

His comment stung

Parshas Shelach


One summer, during a farbrengen with my teenager campers, we were discussing the challenges bachurim face, especially during the summer months. One of the bachurim piped up, “You don’t know what it’s like; you probably don’t even have a yetzer hara!” I was offended by his comment. Of course I have a yetzer hara! Did he really think I don’t have internal struggles?

* * *

After the miserable failure of the meraglim and Hashem’s promise that that generation would not see Eretz Yisroel, Hashem singled out Kalev: “But as for My servant Kalev, since he was possessed by another spirit, and he followed Me, I will bring him to the land to which he came, and his descendants will drive it[s inhabitants] out.”

Wasn’t Yehoshua also Hashem’s servant? Didn’t he also possess this special spirit? And didn’t he also follow Hashem? Why was only Kalev singled out? Also, the word “possessed,” past tense, implies that he was no longer in possession of this spirit. Did Kalev somehow lose the spirit?


The Ohr Hachaim gives the following explanation:


Yehoshua never had the slightest urge to follow the other meraglim. Why not? Moshe Rabeinu had davened for him, which made him immune to any influences of his yetzer hara.


Kalev, in contrast, did not receive this spiritual boost. When the passuk says he was possessed by “another spirit,” it’s referring to an evil one. This evil spirit urged him to follow the scheme of the meraglim. But Kalev overcame the urge. He gathered his inner strength and made a special effort to daven at kivrei avos so that they would help fortify him as well. And overcome he did, which is why “possessed” is written in past tense. That is why he earned unique recognition for following Hashem.


When we find ourselves in situations like Kalev’s, we can be inspired and empowered to overcome our yetzer hara. And to know that a thorough strategy includes employing the brachos of our Rebbes.


Additionally, we can follow Hashem’s example by recognizing other people’s struggles, and celebrating their victories.


Gut Shabbos,


Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier


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