The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.
There are two stories of meraglim (spies) which will be read on Shabbos. There is the story in Parshas Shelach wherein Hashem told Moshe to send the spies, making the task a mitzva and there is the story in the Haftorah from the book of Joshua which discusses the spies sent to Jericho.
R' Frand first asked about the spies sent in Parshas Shelach ---If Hashem knew that the task was fraught with danger, why did He order that they be sent in the first place ("Shelach Lecha")?
R' Frand then quoted the Medrash on the spies sent in the book of Joshua wherein they are referred to as being unparalleled in their endearment to Hashem because they were Sheluchei Mitzva --messengers tasked to perform a mitzva, who risked their lives to do His will. And who were these praiseworthy men who risked their lives - Kalev and Pinchas. And they went forth and were moser nefesh and succeeded.
The Medrash notes that when Kalev and Pinchas entered the city of Jericho, they were pottery (Klei Cheres) salesman. They simply set up shop out in the open and anyone who wanted to buy pottery would come and buy from them. It was a simple way not to be called spies, since they were out in the open as "salesmen."
R' Frand quoted the Sfas Emes who addressed the first question by stating that Hashem knew that the spies in Parshas Shelach were in a dangerous position. It was for this specific reason that he made the sending of the spies a mitzva ---because if Hashem endorsed the desire to send the spies and made it a mitzva instead of a voluntary act, the mitzva will protect them. However, the spies did not take on this task as a mitzva. Instead they viewed it as a task for personal gain. In contrast, Joshua sent the spies as a mitzva and they viewed it as such and succeeded.
The Sfas Emes then asked ---why did they specifically choose to be pottery salesmen? He answered that pottery is not intrinsically valuable, it is utilitarian and serves a specific purpose to hold or store things. It is for this reason that a kli cheres is not mitamei from the outside and only becomes tamei when something tamei comes into (or in contact with) the inside of the vessel.
R' Frand closed this part of the vort by noting that a person who goes to work needs to realize that he is serving as a "butcher, baker or candlestick maker" because he needs to earn a living in order to support a family and give tzedakah and not to simply amass personal fortune. We are vessels which hold our souls and we need to realize that the jobs we perform are a mechanism to fulfill a task, not an end of itself. This is not an easy mindset to have as there are many distractions which may cause us to feel a need to work in order to earn prestige or build our bank accounts. But if a person who works realizes that this is simply a means to support his family and to use the earned funds to perform mitzvos, he can succeed like Joshua's men.
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