Readership Response

Dr. Akiva G. Belk, Director


The following note is published by permission.

Rabbi Akiva, this past week's Parshas Shlach by Rabbi A. Tendler entitled "But I Said I'm Sorry!" should be included along with your essay "If I Have Done Anything To Offend You." Together they helped clear away some baggage I've been carrying a long time. Thank You! Avie in Lakewood


Publisher's Note In reply to our reader's comments:

Rabbi A. Tendler is the author of Rabbi's Notebook, a weekly drash published by Project Genesis. He is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, North Hollywood, CA and Assistant Principal, YULA. Project Genesis is another wonderful learning "SIGHT". They offer many opportunities to learn on levels from basic to advanced. I subscribe to several of these classes including Rabbi's Notebook.. I encourage our readership to visit Project Genesis and have a wonderful learning experience. Go to Project Genesis.

Also, for the record, I am not a rabbi.

The following is published with permission and appreciation of Project Genesis.


Rabbi's Notebook - Shlach
Rabbi A. TendlerRabbi's-Notebook: Shlach

But I Said I'm Sorry!

The date was Tisha B'av 2449, almost 3, 311 years ago. The Bnai Yisroel were poised to enter the land of Israel. Their entrance would have been from the Negev, and a single mountain, the Mountain of the Amorite, stood as the final barrier between them and the southern border of Israel. The Spies returned from their mission and their negative report succeeded in eroding the nation's fragile trust in G-d.

Following the incident of the Miraglim - Spies, Moshe, invoked the special formula of G-d's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy and beseeched G-d to forgive the Bnai Yisroel and not destroy them. G-d relented from His original intent of destroying the nation, but decreed that the Jews would have to remain in the desert another 38 years, during which all the men twenty years and older would die.

Following G-d's decree that the Jews would have to stay in the desert a total of forty years, the Torah records (14:40) that a number of Jews attempted to enter Israel without G-d's permission. Moshe begged them not to do so; however, they ignored Moshe, and hoping to avoid a clash with the Amorites who occupied that immediate area, they attempted to traverse the Mountain of the Amorties (elev. 3,300') and enter Eretz Yisroel. In the end, they walked into an ambush set by the Canaanites and were defeated.

Considering the fact that Moshe had accomplished a reduction in G-d's original punishment, and that G-d was clearly still angry at the Bnai Yisroel for their loss of faith in Him, why did these men ignore Moshe's advice and G-d's decree and attempt to enter Eretz Yisroel without His permission?

The Eleventh Principle of Faith, (the Ani Maamins) states as follows: "I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, rewards with good those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who violate His commandments." This means that for every one of our actions there is a consequence. If we follow the dictates of G-d's law, we will be rewarded. If we go against G-d's commandments, we will be punished.

How do we reconcile Teshuva - repentance with the inevitability of punishment? Is the intent of the Eleventh Principle that punishment is only when there is no repentance, but if there is Teshuva then punishment is suspended? Or, is the goal of Teshuva different and more expansive than merely avoiding punishment, and in fact, may have no effect at all on the inevitability of punishment?

Considering that G-d Himself is the source of the greatest good and benefit, it makes sense that punishment and reward should be a matter of closeness or distance to that source of goodness. Therefore, punishment should be defined as any consequence that either distances us from G-d, or creates a set of circumstances that cloud our awareness of G-d's manifest presence. Reward should be defined as any consequence that brings us closer to G-d, or creates a set of circumstances that increase our awareness of G-d's manifest presence.

Most people labor under the hopeful misconception that saying, "I'm sorry, " is sufficient to avoid punishment. This was never the intent of Teshuva. The goal of repentance, as the term Teshuva - to return implies, is to reestablish in the aftermath of having sinned (which creates a distance between us and G-d) a closeness with G-d or with the person who we had harmed or offended. Therefore, it is important for us to differentiate between reward and punishment and the sometimes inevitability of consequence.

Reward and punishment are byproducts of our relationship with G-d. Consequence is the direct reaction that every action sets in motion. For example; if a person is negligent and breaks his neighbor's window, what should be do? Clearly, the individual must pay for the damaged window and should also say he's sorry for the damage. The payment is for the damages to his neighbor's property, and the apology is to compensate for any inconvenience or assumed or real insult. It doesn't make sense that the apology alone should suffice. Regardless of the social implications, proper restitution must be made for the damaged property. It also doesn't make sense to assume that monetary remuneration is sufficient to rebuild the neighborly relationship. Apologies, reassurances, and appropriate measures to avoid the same thing reoccurring must also be extended.

In the case of the Miraglim, the balance between Teshuva and inevitable consequence was more complex. On the one hand, Teshuva and G-d's forgiveness was essential for reestablishing the nation's relationship with G-d. On the other hand, the damage to the soul of the nation had to be repaired. A simple, "We're sorry, " wouldn't suffice. The closeness with G-d was reestablished the moment that G-d said to Moshe (14:20) I will grant forgiveness as you have requested.

However, there was still significant damage that needed repair. (14:21) and as G-d's glory fills all the world, I will punish all the people who saw My glory and the miracles that I did in Egypt and the desert, but still tried to test me these ten times by not obeying Me. G-d's decree that all the men over twenty years of age would die in the desert was the inevitable consequence to the Sin of the Spies. No amount of saying "We're sorry" could suffice - restitution had to be made.

The Sin of the Miraglim indicated how ill prepared the Jews were to occupy Eretz Yisroel. The goal of the "consequence" was to correct that deficiency and prepare the nation to occupy the land. Therefore, the nation's punishment was not immediate. Only the actual spies were punished right away. The goal of the 38 years of being in the desert was to rebuild thenation's trust in G-d so that they would never again question G-d's ability to care for them.

The generation that would occupy the land would be responsible to interface with Eretz Yisroel and spread the awareness of G-d to the rest of the world. The Sin of the Spies caused a limiting of G-d's "glory" - meaning, the awareness of G-d's absolute control over every facet of the universe. The report of the Spies caused the Jews to question whether G-d could fulfill His promise. Would He be able to best the 31 kings of Canaan? Therefore, that generation could not be the ones to occupy the land and
build a kingdom on an unshakable foundation of faith and trust in G-d. However, during the 40 years in the desert they would model for the new generation, that would occupy Eretz Yisroel, how they must behave. In the end, every individual directly impacted by the Sin of the Miraglim became more aware of G-d's manifest presence and control. In the end, the punishment and the consequence resulted in greater "good."

Accepting the difference between punishment and inevitable consequence isn't easy. Most of us would like to make our past failings simply disappear, and hope that our saying, "I'm sorry" is sufficient. In truth, as we all know, the more intimate the relationship the more complex the Teshuva. How often do we want to make it all go away with a heartfelt apology only to be confronted by our "victims" reluctance or inability to let go of the past? How often does the attempted apology turn into righteous indignation and further offense, hurt, and distance?

Unfortunately, it is our unwarranted expectation that the apology should suffice which gets us into trouble. We need to accept that some hurts don't simply disappear with an apology. We must accept that certain behaviors carry inevitable consequences that are beyond our immediate control. This was the mistake of the group of Jews who attempted to enter Eretz Yisroel after the sin of the Miraglim. They heard the terrible decree of G-d and wanted to make it all go away with their heartfelt Teshuva and apology. They wanted to believe that if they would show G-d how much they wanted to occupy Eretz Yisroel, G-d would relent and forgive the past. However, they refused to take into account that the Sin of the Spies caused inevitable consequence that wouldn't go away just because they had said they were sorry.

It is incumbent upon us all to accept the full spectrum of consequences that our actions set in motion. Some of them are satisfied with a simple apology; others demand greater effort and time. However, one thing is absolutely certain. Every action results in a consequence of reward or punishment. It is our choice to work within the framework of G-d's justice and utilize very opportunity, whether seemingly a reward or a punishment, to be closer to G-d and those who we are supposed to love.

Rabbi Aron Tendler

Other Related Subjects:

Separating From Parents Who Are In Error

Family Problems

If I Have Done Anything To Offend You

Am I Doomed By My Intentional Sin?

Making A Visible Change

June 18, 1999



My name is Hannah. I'm sixteen years old. My family lives in a rural area of Nebraska. I found out about your site from a relative in Chicago. My family is one of three Jewish families in our community. Several weeks ago we went online. It is so cool. I like your site. Reststop is really great.

Hannah, we try to add a few jokes to our RestStop site each week. We hope you keep checking us out. Send us a few jokes, but nothing naughtier than Mrs. Greenberg!




What's the point with Show Time Leadership? It's easy to imagine the scenario described there. These type of things happen! It happened to my family. Thirty-five years ago my father, may he rest in peace, had a dispute with our rabbi. He never went to shul again. He stopped wearing his tefillin and saying his prayers. He pulled me out of Yeshiva. After that all the children went to public school.
Arnold in Baltimore

Arnold, the fact that these things happen like the unfortunate incident between your father, may he rest in peace, and your rabbi is precisely the point! I think it's a communication problem, so many rabbis speak Yiddish. Your language is a few down on their list. They weren't raised in public schools, they were isolated from humanity, they live in a small community, so please try to be more understanding and go back to shul, please.

If you'd like us to say Kaddish for your father, we'd be glad to. Please see Services.




The drash: "But I said I'm Sorry" explains the pain and the devastating injury that a few cheap words can't change. I understand the mayhem caused by what people say. This happens to me often. My friends think I shouldn't be so sensitive. They think when they say, "I'm sorry" everything is supposed to return to normal again. It doesn't happen like that! I feel hurt. It doesn't go away with I'm sorry. Sometimes it lasts for days, weeks, even months. I can't make the hurt go away. I can't ignore it ...

I posted the following saying on my office wall: It expresses how I feel:
Consider the horse: We place a bit in its mouth to make it obey us. We can turn the entire horse using it.
Consider the ship: We direct large ships with a small rudder through furious storms in the direction the pilot chooses.
Consider the auto: Cars are driven in any direction the driver desires.
Consider the jet: Jets are piloted from one city and country to another.

Consider our tongue: The tongue is very difficult to direct. It sets great forests on fire with a small spark. With a few words it corrupts our entire being. The tongue is restless, evil, full of a serpent's deadly poison waiting to strike without warning! With our tongue we offer honor to G-d and hurt our fellow man all from the same mouth.

Man can direct great ships, jets, cars and tame every animal but can man tame or direct his own tongue? Can man erase the damage his tongue causes???
Sarah, Lakewood

Sarah, thank you for your sharing your pain with us and for reminding us to speak gently and carefully.




I agree with your Parsha, Showtime Leadership.
David, New Orleans

Dave, thank you for your kind comments.




Mr. Kravitz and Mr. Belk,
My husband and I are so grateful for your article on Investigating Day / High Schools. We appreciate the list of questions. We have added a few of our own.
Can members of your staff talk openly with you about any subject?
Do you have an active parent / teacher or parent of alumni Association?

Ethel and Sam, Miami

Thank you for your comments. We may add your questions to our list.

School Investigation Guide

School Investigation Guide Question List {Print Out}





Rabbi Belk,
As a Jew who has accepted Jesus as the Messiah I am very angry and offended by several of your essays. You should stop writing lies and turn your life over to Jesus! I am praying for you and all your readers!
Love, Jerry

Jerry, I'm sorry that Mr. Belk hurt you. He is not a rabbi, but just the same he would not intentionally hurt anyone. We would invite you to have a little more dialogue with us because understanding the difference between truth and lies frequently requires understanding Hebrew. You sound like a nice person and we hope that you will feel free to continue visiting our path. Walk a few steps with us and maybe we can be friends. Thank you for your prayers.

All the Staff at JewishPath

June 25, 1999


Dear Akiva,

Gematria is an interesting subject for me. I enjoy studying it at lunchtime, usually on Thursdays. Would you please provide me with more information on Gematria learning?




There is a variety of seforim available on Gematria. Unfortunately, many of them while offering wonderful insights fail to explain the fundamentals and disciplines of Gematria. One book which offers very warm and interesting insights is The Wisdom in The Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk. Another, which offers good foundations for the disciplines of Gematria, is The Spice of Tora-Gematria by Gutman G. Locks.

In October-November of 1999, Z Publishing will be releasing Dr. Belk's new book, entitled Revealing the Mysteries of Hebrew Letters and Numbers. His new book discusses the disciplines, offers easy to understand charts and many insights every student of the Bible will enjoy.

Best regards,

Rachel Gold

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