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Shabbat Parashat Shelach 5772

Parashat Hashavuah: Overcoming the Spy Syndrome

Harav Yosef Carmel

The connection between Parashat Shelach and its haftara is clear. Each discusses the sending of spies to Eretz Yisrael before the anticipated fulfillment of the mitzva (or the promise) of “You shall possess the Land and you shall settle it, for to you I gave the Land to possess it” (Bamidbar 33:53).

The sin of the spies at the time of Moshe dragged along with it the need to send spies again at the time when Yehoshua entered the Land. This was the same Yehoshua, who together with his friend Kalev, had survived the debacle of the spies of Moshe, staying free of the sin of the others and the subsequent curse to die without entering the Land. At first glance the lessons of the failed mission, where the spies scared the people into not believing in Hashem’s ability to have them conquer the Land, were learned. Under Yehoshua’s tutelage, the people were willing to fight and did conquer the Land promised to their forefathers. In our generations, also, we merited to return to the Land, conquer stronger nations, and take control of the Land, from the Suez Canal until Mt. Hermon.

The question of settlement of all parts of our Land these days has been the subject of lively and sometimes cantankerous discussion amongst different segments of the nation. Some of us lack the patience that it takes to complete the historical process in all its elements. There are those of us who, perhaps unwittingly, actually paraphrase the words of the original spies: “We cannot go up against the nation, for it is stronger than we are” (Bamidbar 13:31).

Let us take a look at the situation in this regard at the time of Yehoshua. As we go through Sefer Yehoshua we see victory after victory, as our forefathers captured 31 mini-kingdoms from the north to the south (ch. 6-12). It looks like the complete Land of Israel was in our hands. However, we find later that Hashem summarized the matter to Yehoshua as follows: “You have grown old, and the Land remains with a lot to be possessed. This is the part of the Land that remains …” (Yehoshua 13). The list is a significant one. Later on in the sefer, it says that they were unable to conquer parts of the Land (18:12). Yehoshua was then critical of the people, telling them that they did not show the necessary resolve to gain control over certain areas

                                                                           (ibid. 18:2-3).

Despite the excellent leadership of Yehoshua, the fact that they were in a time of prophecy, and all the Divine help that they received, that generation proved that “the Land of Israel is acquired through painful work.” The important job is one that takes generations. In our days, as well, it certainly appears that patience is one of the traits that we need to use when we try to evaluate our situation in regard to taking control over the Land. This is one of the lessons we learn from dealing with the sin of the spies who showed contempt for Eretz Hemdah (the Desired Land).   

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