THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT SHLACH 5779

BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER

 

"Shlach Lecha Anashim". HaShem instructs Moshe: "Send men to inspect the Land of Israel". But why?

 

Before the Exodus, did HaShem tell Moshe to send out people to check out the desert? To find out if the Sea would part? To measure how high Mount Sinai is? Of course not! Until now, the People received very clear instructions on just about everything. We've even spent the last few Parshiyot learning exactly who encamped where, who moved first, and when. All of this in preparation for the dramatic eagerly anticipated fulfilment of HaShem's pledge to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yakov, Moshe and Aharon, and to this entire nation - "I will give you and your future generations the Land of Israel". And yet now HaShem seems to hesitate? What is going on?

 

Maybe, although HaShem instructed Moshe to send the spies, it wasn't His idea. Maybe HaShem was just "accommodating" the wishes of His Chosen (but often very ungrateful) People. Yet the phrase "Shlach Lecha" - YOU send was directed to Moshe. Is HaShem sending a message to Moshe? Was this Moshe's idea? Furthermore  in Parshat Va'Etchanan, we will discover that it was actually the People themselves who demanded that Moshe send these spies. So what really happened?

 

The Netziv's brilliant explanation is extremely long and encompasses many other issues, but I will attempt to share with you the highlights. Basically, the People of Israel were finding it increasingly difficult to adjust to their new-found freedom. It wasn't that they were mad enough to crave the unbearable hardships they experienced at the hands of the cruel Egyptians. It was "living with HaShem" that they found hard. So many rules and regulations. So many new Halachic restrictions. So many demands on their time, their morals, their feelings, their very lives. And the worst of it? Instant retribution. Was this better than being slaves in Egypt? Infinitely. But they had left Egypt, and they were now about to build their new home. THEIR new home. They wanted to design their own kitchen, and front door, and patio colour scheme. They wanted to "own" their lives, even if everything, yes EVERYTHING, was hitherto delivered on a silver platter.

 

So the People came to Moshe and asked him to have a chat with HaShem on the issue of Hashgacha Pratit - Divine Intervention. Rather than relishing having HaShem look after their every need, they regarded it as "Divine Interference".

 

Moshe, who invariably took the People's side in their differences with HaShem, reluctantly agreed. Unfortunately for him and the People, this had devastating consequences. HaShem said "Right. Have it your way. You don't want 24/7 miracles? You think you can manage without me. Go fight your own battles. Send your "experts" to spy out the Land. Govern your own lives. But don't say I didn't warn you." Hence, Shlach Lecha Anashim. You, Moshe. Send out spies. 

 

The Netziv concludes that today's Galut, this seemingly never-ending Exile during which HaShem has distanced Himself - Hashgacha Nisteret - from us, has its roots in this week's episode. HaShem's reaction to the People's reluctance to enter the Holy Land was to keep them in the desert for another 40 years. Have we learned our lesson?

 

Shabbat Shalom,