Parashas Shelach

This week’s parashah tells of the scouts who were sent to survey the land of Canaan and came back with an evil report. Hashem tells Moshe: “Send out for yourself men, and let them scout the land of Canaan.” As Rashi explains, Hashem was not ordering Moshe to send scouts, but merely acceding to the Jewish People’s desire to send them. The Midrash elaborates (Bamidbar Rabbah 16:7): “The Holy One Blessed Be He had told the People of Israel that the land is good, but they did not believe. Instead they sought to see the land first, saying, ‘Let us send men ahead of us, and let them spy out the land for us.’ Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: ‘If I restrain them, they will say that it is because the land is not good that I did not show it to them. Rather, let them see it, and I swear that not one of them will enter it.’”
The Maggid asks: How could Hashem write the Jewish People off in advance, before the scouts delivered their report? The scouts and the people, having free will, could have taken a positive view of the observed facts. How could Hashem act as if a fiasco was certain?
The Maggid answers with a parable. A man with serious intestinal trouble called in a famous medical expert. The doctor examined him, and said: “Have no fear, my friend. I recently treated so-and-so for the same condition, and brought him back to full health. Here is a potion that will make you fall into a deep sleep. Take it, and then I will be able to do my work.” The patient asked: “What exactly are you going to do to me?” The doctor asked back: “Why do you need to know?” The patient responded: “If you won’t tell me, I’ll go to the other patient and ask him.” Said the doctor: “If you don’t believe that I can cure you, I swear that you will die of this illness!” He then stalked out of the patient’s house.
The onlookers asked: “What made you swear that this fellow will die just because he was planning to ask your other patient about the treatment?” The doctor replied: “After I gave the other patient the potion and he went to sleep, I cut him open and re-arranged all his internal organs so as to put them in the proper position. Now, this fellow here has so little faith in me that he want to go to the other patient first and find out what I am going to do. I know that when he finds out, he will be struck with fear and refuse the treatment. So he is sure to die.”
The parallel is as follows. The land of Canaan was, as the Torah relates, populated with mighty giants. Hashem was planning to smite these giants through great miracles, and then give the land to the Jewish People. Hashem had set up this whole scenario for the Jewish People’s benefit. He meant for the Land of Israel to be His special gift to them. He wanted to convey the land to them in a way that would show both His great power and His great love for them – by wiping out mighty giants to make way for them. After seeing all the miracles Hashem had done for them in Egypt and in the wilderness, and hearing Him promise to give them the land, the Jewish People should have realized that Hashem was going to take care of the conquest of the land for them. But the Jewish People asked Moshe to let them scout the land first, in order to plan a good military strategy. This showed that they were expecting to conquer the land through natural means. The people living in the land were so strong, however, that no ordinary form of warfare could possibly overcome them. It was thus inevitable that, when the scouts saw these giants, they would panic and give up. The moment the people asked to send scouts, a fiasco was indeed certain, and Hashem therefore made His declaration of doom.
Hashem has promised that He will redeem us. Although, from a natural standpoint, our situation may seem shaky, we must not weaken in our hope. Let us keep in mind that the redemption can come at any moment; Hashem brings salvation in the blink of an eye.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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