Parashas Shelach

This week’s parashah relates the tragic episode of the scouts who were sent to survey Eretz Yisrael and came back with a negative report. Upon hearing the report, the Jewish People cried and declared that they wished to go back to Egypt. In the end, after Moshe’s prayers on behalf of the people, Hashem declared them forgiven. But right afterward, Hashem declared that the people of that generation would not enter Eretz Yisrael. The Maggid asks: Given that Hashem forgave the people, why did He take away from them the opportunity to enter Eretz Yisrael?
The Maggid answers with a parable. A lowly, uncultivated peasant had a change in fortune and became extremely rich. When his daughter reached marriageable age, two potential matches were proposed to him. One was with the son of another rich man named Lazer. This young man was boorish and errant. The other was with the son of the town rabbi, who did not have the means to offer any dowry. The man picked the rabbi’s son, but stipulated that the rabbi should at least provide his son with a fine suit for the wedding and a bracelet for the bride. The rabbi replied: “I am not able to provide these items. You are welcome to take my son as a husband for your daughter, but it will have to be without any gifts of any kind.”
The father sent back word that he was going to give his daughter to the rich man’s son. When the father’s friends heard about this decision, they urged him persistently to change his mind, and in the end he did. He went to the rabbi and said: “Let us go ahead with a match between your son and my daughter on whatever terms you say.” The rabbi replied: “I have changed my mind; I am no longer willing to make the match. Initially I thought that you had the nobility of heart to seek only a well-bred young man for your daughter, and that you respected rabbis. But afterward I saw that on account of a bracelet you decided to give your daughter to Lazer’s son, a total scoundrel. So now, even if you’d offer me all the money in the world, I wouldn’t give my son to your daughter. I see that you do not understand a Torah scholar’s great worth and magnificence. So what do you and I have to do with each other?”
Thus it was with the Jewish People. The scouts came back with their negative report, a litany of what they saw as Eretz Yisrael’s drawbacks, and the people collectively decided that they would be better off going back to Egypt. Thus, they compared Eretz Yisrael with Egypt and rated Egypt as superior. They thereby showed a total lack of appreciation for Eretz Yisrael’s sanctity and splendor; they failed to perceive the light of wisdom and holiness that shines forth from the land. They were interested only in what material bounty the land had to offer. This being so, there was nothing special for them about Eretz Yisrael – they could just as well have settled in some other land. And so, although Hashem gave the people a reprieve and did not smite them on the spot, He deemed them unsuited to live in Eretz Yisrael, and did not allow them to enter the land.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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