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June 7, 2015 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Shelach

This week’s portion is primarily about the sin of the spies- Moses sends spies to the Promised Land, the spies say ‘we can’t win”, plague results (and ultimately, God telling Moses that the current generation has to die out before the Jews enter said Promised Land).  The typical Sunday-school explanation of this is: this is what happened when people don’t have faith.

I find this explanation troublesome for two reasons.  First, it makes God seem like a bit of a jerk.  Second, this is hardly the only time when the Jews complain about good reason.

An alternative explanation is hinted at at Numb. 14:35 in which God promises to kill off “all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against Me.” Ibn Ezra suggests that this refers to the mob’s plans to start stoning Joshua and Caleb (the two spies who support conquering the land). He is referring to Numb. 10:10, which states: “all the congregation bade stone them with stones, when the glory of God appeared in the tent of meeting”:.

In other words, this incident, like the Golden Calf incident in Exodus, involved the beginnings of a violent riot.  And when public order (and thus the survival of Moses’ regime) is at stake, extreme measures are necessary.  The Torah is a liberal document in some ways (in particular, issues related to wealth and poverty) but when it comes to public order, it is very conservative.

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