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June 11, 2017 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Shelach-Lecha

This week’s portion is another episode of “Those Whiny Jews.”  Moses sends some spies to examine the Land of Israel, most of the spies worry that they can’t prevail against the local heathens, the people flip out, and then things get really ugly.  God threatens to wipe out the people and start over gain with Moses’ family, Moses pleads for mercy, and God splits the difference by promising that the Jews have to wander for 40 years and at the end of that period, most of the Jews now alive won’t be.

Why was God so angry?  Miller (citing Isaac Arama) writes: “In rejecting the land, they showed that they … preferred to go back to Egypt.” And in Numbers 14:4, they indeed said: “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt!”

Since God told them to go to Israel, this is not only a direct defiance of a Divine command, but also defeats the whole point of everything that has happened since Moses started talking to them about freedom.

So what, you may ask?  Isn’t this all pretty obvious.  Yes, but… often today’s commentators use the “sin of the spies” as somehow analogous to 8 zillion things we do wrong today.  Like the spies, we don’t show enough faith because we do X, or because we don’t do X, etc.

But it seems to me that this situation was a one-off.  We really don’t have Divine revelation, prophecy etc. today.  Assuming arguendo that the Torah is Divinely revealed, it still does not speak to our situation as directly as it spoke to the situations of the founding generation of Jews.   This has advantages and disadvantages: on the one hand, it is harder for us to know what we should do.  But on the other, God doesn’t punish us as severely (or if so, we don’t know for sure that it was happening or why it is happening).   Either way, comparing our lives to this week’s Torah portion is a stretch.


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