THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT SHLACH 5780
BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER
The main topic in this week’s dramatic Parsha has to be the story of the Spies, the calamitous consequences of the negative report brought by ten of them, and the subsequent total loss of faith of the people in HaShem’s ability to conquer the seven nations occupying the Promised Land. All this of course resulted in HaShem killing off an entire generation before allowing their children to enter Israel after 40 years of exile in the wilderness.
Referring to the Torah's original description of the 12 chosen 'men' (the word spies is not used!), the Netziv notes that the Torah uses three different ways of describing them: men, princes, and heads of the people.
So these weren't ordinary, expendable folk. They weren't even military strategists and tacticians familiar with the specialised art of espionage. No. These "spies" were actually respected tribal leaders whose voice and opinion carried substantial weight. And they were chosen for that very reason - to persuade their respective Tribes that HaShem would indeed bring them into the Promised Land. And then the Netziv adds, almost as an afterthought, a precious piece of advice: "This should be adopted as standard practice by all future generations."
Even though the Netziv's advice is given in spite of the eventual rebellious nature of the 10 'bad' spies, the Netziv is implying that people in public service should be gifted with strong morals and leadership qualities, more than the specific expertise associated with their position. This might well be an excellent formula for all modern day politicians.
No less fascinating is what appears in the rest of the Parsha. For immediately after HaShem decrees the punishment, He tells Moshe in the very next verse “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, when you will come to the Land of your dwelling places that I give you …” Incredible. HaShem continues giving Commandments specifically connected to the Land of Israel, including libations “Nesachim” to enhance the aroma of different offerings, and of course the very special Mitzva of taking “Challa” when baking bread, as if nothing happened.
The Parsha ends with the laws of idolatry, profaning the Shabbat and wearing Tzitzit.
I believe HaShem is sending a very powerful message to us. HaShem remains loyal to His pledges. HaShem believes in His People. HaShem has faith that the People wish to gain His love by fulfilling His Commandments. HaShem wants us to stay close to Him, even after, and maybe especially after, we stray and endure His wrath.
At the end of the day, we are His children, and His love for us, and wanting only what’s best for us, will always be there. All we need to do is follow HaShem’s lead. We need to remain loyal. We need to believe. We need to have faith. And we need to show HaShem love in return.