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Friday, June 8, 2018

Parshat Shlach, The Majority Voted "No"

I must admit that this week's Torah Portion of the Week, Parshat Shavua, Shlach Lecha, Numbers 13:1–15:41, is one of my favorite. It's not as simple and optimistic as my all time favorite Lech Lecha, but there's just so much to talk about.
Numbers Chapter 13
1The Lord spoke to Moses saying,אוַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:
2"Send out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel. You shall send one man each for his father's tribe; each one shall be a chieftain in their midst."בשְׁלַח לְךָ֣ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים וְיָתֻ֨רוּ֙ אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן אֲשֶׁר־אֲנִ֥י נֹתֵ֖ן לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אִ֣ישׁ אֶחָד֩ אִ֨ישׁ אֶחָ֜ד לְמַטֵּ֤ה אֲבֹתָיו֙ תִּשְׁלָ֔חוּ כֹּ֖ל נָשִׂ֥יא בָהֶֽם:
3So Moses sent them from the desert of Paran by the word of the Lord. All of them were men of distinction; they were the heads of the children of Israel.גוַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח אֹתָ֥ם משֶׁ֛ה מִמִּדְבַּ֥ר פָּארָ֖ן עַל־פִּ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה כֻּלָּ֣ם אֲנָשִׁ֔ים רָאשֵׁ֥י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל הֵֽמָּה:
In Lech Lecha we have one person, Abram (later called by Gd Abraham) who is told by Gd that he is to go live in a certain place which Gd will show him. That ends up a very straight forward story, since Abraham consistently does whatever Gd says.

But a few generations later, Abraham's descendants aren't as obedient.
  • Although the Land is beautiful and fertile, they are distracted by the residents. 
  • Although Gd had just rescued them from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt and rescued them from Pharaoh's army, they feared confrontation with those in the Land Gd was sending them to.
Of the twelve tribal heads, only two, Joshua and Caleb, trusted that they could really live in The Land. The majority voted "no."

The Jewish People, recently freed from slavery followed their tribal leaders and then were condemned to wait another generation, forty years, before entering the Land.

I've been living here in Israel longer than forty years. We're soon to celebrate forty-eight 48 years since our aliyah. One of the best things, OK the best thing, we ever did was to make aliyah right after our wedding. Many of our friends talked about it, and some also came soon after getting married or finishing university or even just came without any degree or spouse. But there were many friends who took their parents' advice to "first..." and are still in America. In some cases their children and grandchildren are here in Israel, but others have found themselves still enslaved.

The crucial words in Gd's instructions are:
וְיָתֻ֨רוּ֙ אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן אֲשֶׁר־אֲנִ֥י נֹתֵ֖ן לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל, who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel
Gd commanded that each tribal leader choose an area in which to settle his people. I translate and explain וְיָתֻ֨רוּ֙ as to "stakeout" choose where you want to settle and claim it. Today, we'd call this a "pilot trip." Most Jews from the western world schedule and budget in a pre-aliyah trip to Israel to choose where they will live. That's what Gd commands the tribal leaders to do in Parshat Shlach.

They weren't commanded at all to discuss the merits of living in the Land, the pros and cons. They were shown a large present and told to divide it up among themselves.

Why, davka, do I like this  Torah Portion so much? It's because it's so relevant to modern day. Living in the Holy Land is as much a Mitzvah/Commandment today as it was then. Considering that the Israel of today is one of the most advance/modern in the world, the old rationales/excuses for not living here aren't relevant. And considering that Israel is a vibrant and ever-changing democracy, whatever complaints you have can be worked on when here.

The worst thing would be to act like the ten tribal leaders who sinned and refuse to come, rationalizing like they did. That's why this Torah Portion is known as "The Sin of the Spies."


Mr. Cohen said...

In the Biblical Book of Joshua, chapter 13,
G*D criticizes the prophet Joshua for failing
to conquer every inch of the Land of Israel.

In the Biblical Book of Judges, chapter 3,
Israel's failure to conquer every inch of
the Land of Israel leads directly to:

[1] intermarriage with the local Gentiles

[2] worshipping the false gods of the local Gentiles

[3] the Jews then suffer the wrath of G*D.

Even in our times, hundreds, maybe thousands,
of Jewish girls in Israel have intermarried with
Arab men, which was only possible because Jews
did not drive all Arabs out of the Land of Israel.

Comprende, amigos?

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Refuting the Fans of Vashti:


Jerusalem Cats said...

A Pilot Trip is highly recommended because even if you have been to Israel as a tourist there is nothing like asking yourself where do I want to live? Do I like the building? Where are my children going to school? Can I deal with the markets?
My wife and I did a pilot trip without our children, we found a school for them and got use to the shuls here.

Batya Medad said...

Mr. Cohen, yes, but that was a generation later.

Jerusalem Cats, yes, especially when there are children, it's best to do good research.