Weekly Portion: Shelach (Numbers 13-15)

The Jewish people received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and were ready to enter the land of Israel. There was a consensus of opinion amongst the people that we should send spies to see if it was feasible to conquer the Land. Moshe knew that the Almighty’s promise to give the Land included a guarantee to conquer it. However, one of the principles of life which we learn from this portion is: the Almighty allows each of us the free will to go in the direction we choose. Even though one man and the Almighty is a majority, Moshe — by Divine decree — sent out the princes of the tribes (men of the highest caliber) to spy out the land.

Twelve spies were sent. Ten came back with a report of strong fortifications and giants; they rallied the people against going up to the Land. Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefunah (Moshe’s brother-in-law) tried to stem the rebellion, but did not succeed. The Almighty decreed 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for each day they spied in the land of Israel. This happened on the 9th of Av, a date noted throughout Jewish history for tragedy — the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain amongst them.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The ten spies reported back to the Jewish people:

“The people who dwell in the land are extremely fierce and the cities are fortified and very great. We also saw the children of Anak (giants) there. We cannot go up to the people because they are stronger than us.”

The spies were sent to reconnoiter the land and bring back the report. What was their mistake?

The report of the spies was appropriate. They observed and they related what they saw. Their mistake was drawing a conclusion and rendering the decision that they we should not attempt to enter the Land. They did not take into account that the Almighty has the power to help against all odds.

What is our lesson? We often see situations and come to erroneous conclusions. We must be very careful because often times there are factors that we are unaware of or don’t take into consideration. It is incumbent upon us to judge people favorably … unless we’re very sure.


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