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May 26, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Shelach Lecha

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses sends some tribal chieftains out to visit the Land of Israel. After they see the Canaanites’ walled cities, they express highly pessimistic views about the people’s chances of conquering said land, causing the general populace to have a meltdown and almost stone Moses.  God gets so angry that he announces that most of the current generation of grownup males will not live to enter the land.

The sin of the Golden Calf was arguably objectively worse, since it may have involved idolatry – and yet God’s punishment is less wide-ranging.  How could fear of the Canaanites be worse than Calfgate?

Milgrom points out that in the latter affair “the expression of remorse preceded the final [Divine] decree [of punishment].” (commentary to Num. 14:40). By contrast, in this week’ s portion the people do not collectively admit error until after God has announced his punishment.  In other words, the quicker the apology the lighter the punishment.

This is something that I can relate to in my life. Last week I did something that made a friend very angry- one of these seemingly trivial errors that, due to some bad luck, spiraled out of control quickly.  I apologized on the spot, and again the next morning, and then agreed to the long email she sent out in response.  I don’t know if the relationship will ever be fully healed, but I know that the chances are much better than if I had said nothing.

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