Parashas Shelach

This week’s parashah relates the unfortunate episode of the scouts who went to survey the Land of Israel, and returned with a negative report. The Torah records the Jewish People’s reaction (Bamidbar 14:1): “The entire assembly raised and issued forth their voice; the people cried that night.” The Maggid discusses this reaction in his commentary on haftaras Korach.
The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 16:20 teaches that the night that people cried was the night of Tishah B’Av, and because they cried on that night inappropriately, Hashem designated Tishah B’Av as a day of crying for future generations. In support of this explanation, the Midrash cites the following passage (Tehillim 106:26-27): “He raised His hand against them, to cast them down in the wilderness. And to cast down their descendants amongst the nations, and to scatter them across the lands.” The Midrash comments: “A raising of the hand in correspondence with a raising of the voice.”
The Maggid explains this Midrash in terms of an idea in his commentary on the haftarah for parashas Vayishlach, according to the custom in some communities. In a homiletical reading, the opening verse of this haftarah runs as follows (Hoshea 11:7): “My people are waiting for My response, for they have called toward and upon (el al) Me, but with an inconsistent praise.” The Maggid explains that the terms el and al indicate two different ways of asking something of Hashem. The term el (toward) indicates turning humbly toward Hashem with an entreaty. The term al (upon), by contrast, describes a complaint that is, so to speak, cast down upon Hashem. In using both terms, Hoshea is saying that people’s words are in the form of a humble entreaty, but their tone of voice reflects a complaint. Hence Hashem left them hanging, without a response.
Likewise, after the report of the scouts, the Jewish People raised their voice against Hashem in complaint. This was the essence of their sin. Had they simply cried, it would not have been such a grave offense (although it still would have shown a certain lack of faith), for such a reaction would be understandable as a reaction of fright due to the scouts’ report. If they had turned to Hashem with a plea for help, Hashem would not have been so upset with their behavior. But in raising their voice against Hashem in complaint, they committed a gross transgression. Hence, in return, Hashem raised His hand against them.
The Maggid uses the foregoing idea to explain a Mishnah about prayer. The Mishnah says (Mishnah Berachos 4:4): “One who makes his prayer a fixed matter, his prayer is not an entreaty.” The Maggid explains: if you demand something of Hashem, as if it is coming to you according to a fixed contract, then your prayer is not an entreaty. We can learn a practical lesson from this: when we face difficulties in our daily lives, we must be careful not to complain to Hashem about them (either verbally or mentally); rather, we should humbly ask Him for relief.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.