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And it shall be for you tzitzis and you shall see it and you shall remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them and you shall not spy after your eyes after which you stray. So that you may remember and perform all My commandments and be holy to your God. (Bamidbar 16:39,40)
The commentators are bothered as to why the posukim mention twice the requirement that we shall perform the mitzvos upon seeing the tzitzis. Further, why with regard to the second mention of performance does the posuk emphasize all the mitzvos whereas regarding the first reference the posuk mentions simply the mitzvos without an emphasis on all the mitzvos?
It is noteworthy that the word spy appears twice in our parsha. The first reference is in the beginning of the parsha regarding the twelve spies that Moshe sent to inspect Eretz Yisroel. The second reference is in the parsha of tzitzis where we are warned not to spy after our eyes after which we stray. The commentators explain that this similarity links the two sections. We may ask, what is the relationship?
The commentators explain that there are two possible attitudes that the spies could have adopted as they went on their mission. The first attitude is based on the underlying belief that the Jewish people would conquer the land no matter what they find. Inspecting the land would not determine if they would conquer the land. The fact that Hashem had given it as a gift to the Jewish people was itself enough reason to conquer it. The reason for spying was only to understand the nature of the land. The mission was to discover where the roads, rivers, strongholds and weak points are. The goal was to collect vital strategic data. Only after mapping the land and accumulating sufficient data would they have the ability to plan how to go about conquering the land.
The second possible attitude would be to inspect the land and determine if it is worthy of conquest. Should the spies discover that the land is undeveloped and not suited for cultivation they would reject the gift of Hashem and return to Egypt or seek some other land to live in.
Moshe sent the spies with the assumption that they had adopted the first attitude. Indeed chazal teach us that originally the spies were righteous and did have a proper attitude. However, as time went on they became corrupt, rebelled and adopted the second attitude. When they discovered that the land was not to their liking, they spread slander in an attempt to reject Hashems gift.
At the conclusion of the parsha Hashem gave the Jewish people the mitzvah of tzitzis as an attempt to atone and prevent the reoccurrence of the likeness of this sin. First, the Torah says that we should look at the tzitzis, perform the mitzvos and not stray after our eyes. This alludes to the second attitude mentioned above. We are to look at the tzitzis and remember that the performance of the mitzvos is not a matter of choice but rather something that we must do. We are not to stray after our eyes like the spies in the beginning of the parsha who strayed with their eyes and developed the attitude that the inheritance of the land is a matter of choice.
The Torah then tells us to look again at the tzitzis, remember the mitzvos and perform them in order to be holy. Here the Torah implies that we should deeply study the mitzvos and attempt to uncover their moral and ethical teachings so that not only will we physically perform the mitzvos but also perform them with holiness. This was the attitude the spies should have adopted in their mission. Their goal should have been to understand the nature of the land in order to prepare for conquering and settling.
Thus by linking the section of tzitzis with the spies we may conclude that we are required to give the tzitzis a double look. First we must remember that the performance of mitzvos is not a matter of choice, and second we are reminded to look deeply into the mitzvos and uncover the nature of the mitzvah.
The first reference of performance does not include a reference to all the mitzvos. This is because here we are discussing the actual performance of the mitzvos. Not every Jew has the ability or even the obligation to perform every single commandment, thus the word all is omitted. However, regarding the second reference the word all is included. This refers to the in depth study of the essence and nature of the mitzvos so as to understand its deeper meaning and ramifications. After extraction the essence of a mitzvah one may perform its moral teaching even if one does not have the ability or obligation to perform the mitzvah in its literal sense.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001