Best of Both Worlds

“Send for yourself spies and they will investigate the land of Canaan”
(Bamidbar 13:2).

The people of Israel came as a mob and pressured Moshe to send spies to the land of Canaan because they did not truly believe that it was a land flowing with milk and honey as Hashem had promised. “In the way that a person desires to go that is where they lead him” is a principle as to the way Hashem runs the world. Hashem told Moshe he may send the spies, but it will lead to disaster, and so send “for yourself — lecha.”

There was a basic flaw in the Jewish People’s understanding as to why Hashem had chosen this particular country for them. Since it was referred to as the Land of Milk and Honey, they saw it as a place for physical bounty and enjoyment of the best this world has to offer. However, Hashem’s intention was to bless them with special opportunities for spiritual advancement that may only be found in the Land of Israel.

Once there was a man who lost his fortune and was forced to travel to a faraway land in order to earn a living. He arrived at a remote place where the simple folk didn’t even know how to plow or plant produce. The land, however, was strewn with valuable jewels and pearls. The people traded the valuable gems for food and produce that merchants from other countries brought to barter.

The visitor decided to buy a farm and plant various grains and vegetables. He married and had children and eventually became the wealthiest man in the country because he supplied the ignorant residents with their physical needs in exchange for valuable gems. When he reached a ripe old age, he called in his sons and told them that he had another, very intelligent, son from his first wife in his country of origin and that they should bring him to share in the inheritance when he died. The man requested that they give the other son his choice of either the farm or the jewels and wealth that he bequeathed.

And so they did. The half-brother came to live with them and was asked which part of the father’s inheritance he would like to have. He chose the farm — much to the surprise of the others who thought that if he were so smart he would certainly choose the gold, silver and jewels.

Several years later, a wise king came to the land and taught all of the residents agriculture. The economy grew as they all sold their jewels to foreigners and produced for themselves what they needed to live. It was then that the brothers realized the wisdom of their half-brother that chose the farm over the wealth. “He was the one who chose the thing of real value and left us with the rest.”

The lesson of the parable is clear. The value and benefit of living in the Land of Israel is not only the physical bounty but also the spiritual benefit that one can earn — if one knows how to do it. It all depends on the person. One who knows the true value of the spiritual will use the physical bounty of the land to perform the mitzvot and to live by the dictates of the Torah in order to accumulate true wealth for the World to Come. How fortunate is one who can gain eternal wealth while he enjoys the temporal blessings of Hashem. It is the best of both worlds.

NOTE: Although the spiritual gain one can earn in the Land of Israel is easier to achieve and of higher eternal value than any reward one may earn elsewhere on earth, one should know that wherever one lives the proper use of the gifts bestowed on a person by Hashem is to use all that one has for the sake of Hashem and His mitzvot. One should not squander what one is blessed with for mundane temporal pleasure.

Shabbat shalom.


Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.