| Parshah |

Driver’s Ed

If only we saw ourselves as agents of Hashem, we’d act differently

“They returned from spying the land… They went, and they came to Moshe and Aharon and all Bnei Yisrael… and they brought them back a report… and showed the fruit of the land.” (Bamidbar 13:25–26)



Why does this pasuk repeat that they went when the previous pasuk already told us they returned?

Rashi says this shows that their return was the same as their leaving — both were with evil intent. Yet earlier (13:3), Rashi says that the Meraglim were “anashim,” important and righteous people. Which is it?

The Maharal answers this seeming contradiction by explaining that in essence the Meraglim were good people. However, they accepted a job as shalichim, agents for Klal Yisrael, and Klal Yisrael didn’t have good intentions.

In many halachic situations, we state that a person’s messenger is like the person himself. It’s more than a physical status; it’s a spiritual connection in which the agent is influenced by the intentions of those who send him. (Rabbi Reisman, Shiurim al Chumash)

It felt strange but good to be back in the States, basking in the glow of family after my year-and-a-half absence.

When planning my trip, I also scheduled an important errand: I needed to appear at the local DMV in person to renew my American driver’s license. But despite my booking the appointment so long in advance, when I showed up, I found a sign stating that the office was closed due to Covid and wouldn’t reopen until after my return date. According to the policeman guarding the door, my appointment wasn’t valid at any other branch, despite my pleas.

In desperation (Would I need to retake the driver’s test if my license actually expired? I don’t remember how long a traffic light stays yellow!), I scrambled to find an appointment in a different branch. Knowing how few appointments had been available when I’d originally made mine two months earlier, I was pessimistic about my prospects.

Finally, I found one. An office in Flemington, New Jersey, had an appointment open for that very day. Driving time: 75 minutes each way. I grabbed it.

Ever been to Flemington? It’s way out in a western corner of the state. The drive along rural roads was actually nice, reminding me of summers in the Catskills. I passed acres of farmland, homes set far back from the road, silos reaching high above crops and lots of American flags standing at attention, with the occasional dog snoozing below. (Toto, I don’t think we’re in Ocean County anymore.)

The Chasam Sofer adds that a shaliach is sometimes called a malach. When a person realizes that he really is only a shaliach for Hashem, and acts accordingly, then the word angel is appropriate.

The Chiddushei Harim explains this is why the Meraglim are blamed for their actions: They should have seen themselves as representatives of Hashem, not of Bnei Yisrael.

Pulling up at the DMV, I parked my brother’s Siena among a crowd of pickup trucks and jeeps. Entering the office, I felt like a smurf. The place was crowded with mostly men, huge, strapping guys, with buzz cuts, tattoos, and bandanas. The few women seemed to tower above me. The atmosphere was pleasant, no one was threatening, but with my black skirt and long-sleeved shell, I felt like an alien.

Adjusting my mask to make sure it really was covering my nose, I approached the first counter to register.

In our daily lives, we often don’t give much thought to how we act, notes the Sfas Emes. But if only we saw ourselves as agents of Hashem, we’d act differently.

The next two hours were spent as the First Frum Female Flemington Ambassador. (I’m considering contacting Governor Murphy if he’d like these services on a steady basis.)

I spoke politely and thanked every clerk I encountered. (There were many!) I lent my pen to the lady next to me in line and complimented her on her glasses. She blinked in surprise and almost dropped her paperwork.

I operated in frum-but-friendly mode throughout and felt I’d left a much friendlier Flemington than when I’d first arrived. Holding my new license, I pulled out of the parking lot, feeling I’d just been granted permission for much more than just driving.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 745)

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