PARSHAT Shelach                                     By: Andrew Zimmerman, MD                         

Sivan 25, 5776 | July 1, 2016

במדבר ט״ו:א׳-ג׳

א) וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ (ב) דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ אֲלֵקֶ֑ם כִּ֣י תָבֹ֗אוּ אֶל־אֶ֙רֶץ֙ מוֹשְׁבֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֥ן לָכֶֽם׃ (ג) וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֨ם אִשֶּׁ֤ה לַֽה' עֹלָ֣ה אוֹ־זֶ֔בַח לְפַלֵּא־נֶ֙דֶר֙ א֣וֹ בִנְדָבָ֔ה א֖וֹ בְּמֹעֲדֵיכֶ֑ם לַעֲשׂ֞וֹת רֵ֤יחַ נִיחֹ֙חַ֙ לַֽה' מִן־הַבָּקָ֖ר א֥וֹ מִן־הַצֹּֽאן׃

 

Bamidbar 15:1-3

(1) Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: (2) Speak to the Jewish people and say to them: When you enter the land of your dwelling please that I give you, (3) and perform an offering by fire to the Hashem from the herd or from the flock, be it burnt offering or sacrifice, in fulfillment of a vow explicitly uttered, or as a freewill offering, or at your fixed occasions, producing an odor pleasing to Hashem:

 

רש"י על במדבר ט״ו:ב׳:׳

)ב) כי תבאו. בִּשֵּׂר לָהֶם שֶׁיִּכָּנְסוּ לָאָרֶץ:

Rashi on Bamidbar 15:2

(2) When you come to the land- He brought them the good tidings that they would enter the land.

 

 

In this week’s parsha, Moshe sends spies to spy out the land of Israel in preparation for the entrance of the Jewish people into the land. Unfortunately, most of the spies lack faith in Hashem, and give a bad report about the land of Israel. After hearing the report, the Jewish people become scared, and even discuss returning to Egypt, rather than facing the perceived danger described by the spies. As a result of the sins of the spies and the Jewish people, Hashem informs the Jewish people that they will wander in the desert for forty years, until the entire generation that committed the sin passes away. Hashem informs them, that their children, however, will enter the land. Frustrated by this turn of events, some of the Jewish people then attempt to enter the land of Israel without Hashem's permission, and suffer defeat at the hands of their enemies. The parsha then takes an unusual turn, and describes several mitzvot that the Jewish people will need to fulfill when then they enter the land of Israel, such as libations and meal offerings that accompany sacrifices.

 

Rashi has an implicit question. We would have expected the mitzvot that pertain to libations and meal offerings to appear in the context of other passages that pertain to sacrifices. Why then do these additional details of mitzvot appear here, after the sin of the spies? Rashi tells us that the purpose of telling the Jewish people about these additional details at this time was to bring “them the good tidings that they would enter the land.” The "they" referred into “they would enter the land” seemingly refers to the children of the generation that would pass away in the desert.

 

However, this is not the first time that they are informed that their children will enter the land. Hashem informed them earlier in the parsha that though the present generation would die the the desert, their “children who, you said, would be carried off—these will I allow to enter; they shall know the land that you have rejected.” (Bamidbar 14:31) It is obvious that after the Jewish people were informed of their punishment, the idea that their children would eventually enter was not reassuring to them. After all, they immediately attempted to ascend to the land of Israel without Hashem’s permission. What is the point of repeating this idea, that their children will eventually enter the land? Why is this formulation any more reassuring than the previous promise?

 

The answer may be found by analyzing the way the second assurance addresses the generation that is to pass away in the desert, and the fact that the reassurance is found within the context of mitzvot. Hashem reformulates the promise that the next generation will enter the land of Israel, in order to change the attitude of the generation that is to die in the desert. Hashem tells Moshe “Speak to the Jewish people and say to them: When you enter the land of your dwelling please that I give you...” This generation is not going to enter the land of Israel so how can Hashem address them as “you”? By referring to their children as “you” Hashem is trying to show them that while individual and generational accomplishment is very important, the next generation of their children is also “you.” More specifically, Hashem is telling them although your generation will not make it to the land of Israel, the Jewish people will eventually get there, and even your generation that will pass away is still a part of that. And what is the connection that allows each generation to transcend death and connect to those that follow it? How will they live on in their children when they eventually do enter the land? Hashem’s response is that their children will keep the commandments that he is instructing their generation right now. They will teach their children the mitzvot and torah that Hashem has given them even after the sin of the spies, and through this connection, they will enter the land of Israel alongside their children.

 

The importance of acknowledging the collective nature of all the generations of the Jewish people, as well as the underlying torah and mitzvot that allow for that unique connection, is an important lesson that we should take to heart.

 

Shabbat shalom!

 

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Sun, February 25 2018 10 Adar 5778