כלם אנשים - כל אנשים שבמקרא לשון חשיבות ואותה שעה כשרים היו (רש"י)
Rashi writes (13:3) that at the time the spies were sent, they were still righteous and had no plans to sin by speaking badly of the
When Rav Eizel Charif (nsome say the Chasam Sofer) was a mere 8 years old, he was asked to explain Rashi’s intention and responded with a most brilliant derivation for Rashi’s comment. Hashem later decrees (14:34) that the Jewish nation will be required to wander in the wilderness for a total of 40 years, corresponding to the 40 days that the spies sinned while scouting out the land of Israel. If each day – which contains 24 hours – was punished with an additional year – which contains 12 months – of wandering, it comes out that for each hour of their journey, they were punished with an additional half of a month in the desert.
We know that although the Jews left
ויציאו דבת הארץ אשר תרו אתה אל בני ישראל לאמר הארץ אשר עברנו בה
לתור אתה ארץ אכלת יושביה הוא (13:32)
The first chapter of Eichah is written in the form of an acrostic, which each succeeding verse beginning with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Although the following 3 chapters follow a similar form, there is one notable exception in that in each chapter, the verse beginning with the letter פ precedes the verse starting with the letter ע, a reversal of the natural order of the alphabet. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (104b) cryptically explains that this is because the spies sinned by preceding their mouths (פ = פה) to their eyes (ע = עין) and reporting back facts which they didn’t actually see.
Rav Moshe Shapiro explains that in any situation, a person is able to see or find what he is looking for. Even before he fully takes in and evaluates the new situation, he has already made up his mind, and not surprisingly proceeds to find evidence to support his conclusion, a phenomenon commonly referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rav Chatzkel Levenstein (in Yad Yechezkel) infers from Moshe’s rebuke of the nation in Parshas Devorim that the primary sin of the spies was their character trait of נרגנות, which refers to a person who is constantly full of complaints and has nothing positive to say about anybody or anything. Because the spies embarked on their journey already decided that they didn’t want to live in
The Jewish people were punished (14:34) with an additional year of wandering in the wilderness for each day of the spies’ journey. It is difficult to understand why they were punished for the entire journey and not just for the day on which they returned and sinned by speaking ill of the
The Arizal writes that each month of the calendar is mystically associated with a certain topic upon which we are supposed to work during that month. Parshas Shelach is typically read just before the month of Tammuz, and it contains the tragic events which caused the mourning period which begins in Tammuz and is still observed today. The Arizal writes that our mission in the month of Tammuz is to rectify the concept of ראיי'ה – how we view things. The sin of the spies was that they sought out the bad in every encounter; let us learn from their mistakes and re-orient our perspective to one of seeking out the good in every life situation, which will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
וישכמו בבקר ויעלו אל ראש ההר לאמר הננו ועלינו אל המקום אשר אמר ד' כי חטאנו (14:40)
It is mind-boggling to contemplate the abrupt about-face on the part of the Jewish people. At the beginning of the parsha, they were planning to enter and miraculously conquer the
The Alter from Kelm, as quoted in Darkei Mussar, answers that the nature of humans is to rebel against authority and commands. Rav Yaakov Emden explains that it is for this reason that the Gemora in Kiddushin (31a) states that a person who performs a mitzvah he is obligated to do will receive more reward than somebody who performs the same mitzvah but isn’t required to do so. Because the former knows that he must do the mitzvah regardless of his desire to do so, he will feel constrained and will encounter much more internal resistance in his attempts to perform the mitzvah than will the latter, who knows that he is free to opt out of the mitzvah at any time. If the former nevertheless succeeds in overcoming his internal opposition and performs the mitzvah, he is indeed deserving of a greater reward. Similarly, Hashem gently asks Moshe (Shemos 11:2) to please instruct the Jewish people to borrow gold and silver from their Egyptian neighbors prior to the Exodus. The Alter from Kelm explains that although they would be getting rich in the process and Moshe would therefore naturally want to tell them to do so, nevertheless Hashem merely requested it of him, almost as a favor, in order to teach that even an action which is clearly in one’s best interest may cause one to rebel against it as soon as it becomes a command.
We may therefore explain that in the beginning of the parsha, the Jewish people knew that they were commanded to enter and conquer the
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Gemora in Temurah (16a) relates that prior to his death, Moshe invited his disciple and successor Yehoshua to ask him to clarify any doubts he may have. Yehoshua responded that he had never left Moshe for a single moment and therefore had no unresolved issues. How could Yehoshua say that he never left Moshe’s side when he spent 40 days away from Moshe scouting out the
2) Moshe instructed the spies (13:20) to bring back fruits from the
3) The spies traversed the
4) At the beginning of the Kol Nidrei service, we emotionally invoke Moshe’s request that Hashem forgive the people for the sin of believing the spies, and Hashem’s response that “I have forgiven as per your words” (14:19-20). In our attempts to arouse Hashem’s mercy in judgment, why do we invoke the episode of the spies, in which the repentance of the Jewish nation wasn’t truly accepted as the decree against them remained in place and they indeed died in the wilderness?
5) Rashi writes (14:24) that Calev verbally claimed to be part of the wicked plot of the other spies, even though in his heart he remained pure and planned to report the truth. If he claimed to be part of the spies’ evil plans, how was he able to get away without assisting them in carrying back the gigantic fruits of the land of Israel (Rashi 13:23)? (Paneiach Raza)
6) On what date did the spies die? (Beis Yosef and Bach Orach Chaim end of 580, Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 3:14, K’motzei Shalal Rav)
7) Rashi writes (Vayikra 24:12) that the incidents of the wood-gatherer and the blasphemer occurred in the same period of time. Rashi writes (15:32) that the episode of the wood-gatherer occurred on the 2nd Shabbos that the Jews spent in the desert, while he writes (Vayikra 24:10) that the blasphemer became angry either over the lechem ha’panim which was left in the Mishkon for an entire week or over his inability to dwell amongst the tribe of Dan. As both of these could only have occurred after the erection of the Mishkon approximately one year after the Jews left
8) The Rema rules (Orach Chaim 339:4) that it is forbidden to incarcerate a prisoner on Shabbos. How were the Jews in the desert permitted to place the wood-gatherer in jail (15:34) on Shabbos until Hashem would clarify through what means he should be put to death? (Ibn Ezra, Sh’vus Yaakov, Kerem Shlomo, K’motzei Shalal Rav, M’rafsin Igri)
9) The Gemora in Berachos (54a) interprets the Torah’s spelling of the word לבבך in the first paragraph of the Shema (Devorim 6:5) with two “ב”s instead of one as coming to teach that one is required to love Hashem with both his good inclination and with his evil inclination. Applying this to the third paragraph of Shema, found at the end of our parsha, the Torah forbids (15:34) one to stray אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם – after your heart and after your eyes, but in writing the word “heart” with two “ב”s, it can be interpreted as prohibiting one from following both his positive and evil inclinations. Why would the Torah forbid one to follow his good inclination?
10) When the Baal HaTanya was a young child, he was asked which verse in the Torah begins and ends with the same 3 letters. He cryptically responded to the riddle: “in the place where Moshe didn’t say אמת.” To which verse in Parshas Shelach was he referring? (Torah L’Daas 5764)
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