The Tzaddik’s Eternal Soul
transcribed and translated from previous recordings of
Rav Eliezer Berland Shlit”a
“And he came to Hevron” (13:22)– “Calev alone went there and prostrated himself on the graves of the forefathers” (Rashi).
All of Israel heard the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad. “Moshe will die and Yehoshua will lead Am Yisrael into the Land.” All of Am Yisrael heard the awful prophecy, it had quickly spread throughout the entire camp. Eldad and Meidad said, “Know that Moshe is about to die—the moment that we reach the border of the Land of Israel, Moshe will be taken from us! And Yehoshua will be our leader, and he will bring us into the Land of Israel.” The whole nation was flabbergasted. Completely horrified. The entire nation cried out, “If we go into the Land of Israel, Moshe will die!”
Rebbe Nasan explains that the controversy between the spies and Yehoshua ben Nun was that the spies argued, “We love Moshe Rabbeinu and we want Moshe Rabbeinu. We won’t leave him. We are for Moshe. We want him to live and not die. The only reason that we don’t want to enter the Land of Israel is so that Moshe will continue living and leading us. Who cares if we remain in the desert. The main thing is that Moshe stays alive. In the Sha’ar HaPesukim, parshas Shelach Lecha, the holy Ari explains the awful controversy between the spies and Yehoshua: The spies said to Yehoshua bin Nun, “You heard the prophecy that Moshe will die and Yehoshua will bring the people in, so you want to enter the Land of Israel so that your Rav will die. You are simply a murderer. Quite simply you want to kill your Rav. You want to inherit the leadership from your Rav.” And Yehoshua argued, “Moshe is alive! Moshe is alive and he exists. Moshe will never die. Moshe cannot die.” This is what Yehoshua Bin Nun explained to the spies, that Moshe is eternal.
Tzaddikim live and exist forever. There is no such thing as Moshe dying. There is no such thing as Rashbi dying or the Ari dying or the Baal Shem Tov dying. Tzaddikim never die. Mosh Rabbeinu is alive and will always be. He comes down in an ibur (he attaches himself on the soul level) to the tzaddik of every generation. He can attach himself to anyone. The purer and holier a person is, the greater the revelation of Moshe Rabbeinu he will merit having (that Moshe’s soul will attach itself to him.)
The spies argued, “We love Moshe. We don’t give up on him. Yehoshua wants to be a leader…OK, so let him go on his own and take Am Yisrael with him. We will never leave Moshe alone. We are faithful to Moshe.” So what was the mistake of the spies? Rebbe Nasan explains that the spies gave Moshe Rabbeinu the worst humiliation in the world. Not only did they not listen to him when they went to the Land of Israel, but Rabbeinu says that they also didn’t believe in Moshe’s eternality. They didn’t believe that Moshe Rabbeinu was eternal, that his decrees and customs would endure forever and ever, or that his soul could become attached to each and every person at any given moment. In their wanting a live Moshe Rabbeinu—that the physical body of Moshe Rabbeinu would be with them—they physicalized him. They made the whole aspect of Moshe Rabbeinu into something material, they turned him into a mere body.
Rebbe Nasan explains that that which the spies argued that they wanted to remain with Moshe, in fact revealed that, to the contrary, they were really waiting for Moshe to pass away, that they wanted to be rid of Moshe already and to be freed of Moshe’s difficult leadership. Moshe would serve Hashem with all his strength. He would get up for Chatzos and pray vasikin, would do hisbodedus and learn Torah day and night, etc. They said, “Let’s stay in the desert with Moshe Rabbeinu another 10 years, another 20 years and in the end we’ll be rid of him and then we can start getting up at 10:00 or 12:00 in the morning and have some real fun. There’s no choice: we’ll have to suffer a bit more—we’ve already fallen into the pit!” And truly, they knew that Yehoshua bin Nun would continue in the way of Moshe Rabbeinu, so they didn’t want Yehoshua bin Nun. They wanted Moshe. They wanted to stay with Moshe just to wait for him to die.
Rebbe Nasan asks: What did Calev ben Yefuneh do? Where was he during this controversy? Calev was silent. Calev didn’t know who was right, Yehoshua or the spies. The spies claimed that they wanted Moshe to stay alive and they didn’t want to enter the Land of Israel, saying that Yehoshua bin Nun was a murderer! Yehoshua bin Nun wanted to enter the Land of Israel and was just waiting for Moshe to pass away. Calev said to Yehoshua bin Nun, “Yehoshua, what are all these rumors about? Look at what is going on here. We’ve got 10 tzaddikim with beards down to the ground and thick pa’os and look what they’re saying about you. How come you’re not afraid to enter Israel? It will cause Moshe to die?” Yehoshua bin Nun answered, “I know that Moshe is eternal. Moshe is not dependent on a body. I don’t see Moshe’s body—I see only his soul. His soul is eternal. It is found in every place and can attach itself to you. It can attach itself to the leaders, to Elidad ben Kislon, to Gedi ben Susi. I will listen to whomever Moshe’s soul will be attached. If he will pass away, I know that immediately Moshe’s soul will attach itself to someone because Moshe is eternal!” Calev didn’t know who was right, Yehoshua or the spies. He found himself between a rock and a hard place. How could he know who was right? How could he clarify the matter? What did Calev do? He went to Hevron to the gravesite of the holy forefathers, and there the truth was revealed to him? What was revealed to him? The moment he laid down at the graves of the forefathers, he realized that the forefathers are alive and enduring. He saw that Avraham is alive, that Yitzhak is alive, and that Yaakov is alive! It was revealed to him that what Yehoshua said was the truth. A tzaddik does not pass away. He can never die. Rashbi is alive. The Ari is alive. The Baal Shem Tov is alive. It was revealed to him that 400 years after his passing, Avraham Avinu was speaking to him saying, “Yehoshua is correct. Moshe will live forever.” Yitzhak said to him, “Moshe will live forever.” Yaakov said to him, “Moshe will live forever.” Rebbe Nasan says that this is what was revealed to Calev at the grave of the forefathers—that the tzaddikim are not a body. It’s not what you see with your eyes. A tzaddik is an eternal soul, forever and ever.