Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 4 No. 38

Parshas Sh'lach Lecho

To Question Hashem

The idea of sending agents to spy out Eretz Yisroel emanated from the people themselves, as is stated clearly in Devorim, and not from G-d, as would appear from this Parshah (it is not uncommon for the Torah to use vague expressions in one place, relying upon more explicit statements made elsewhere; "The words of Torah are poor in one place and rich in another," say Chazal - Yerushalmi Rosh Hashonoh 3:15)). The S'forno attributes Hashem's intervention to a well-founded fear that, had the sending of spies been left to the people, they would have sent ordinary men. The men they would have sent, like the spies who actually went, inspired by the dread of the giants in Eretz Yisroel, would have returned with a wretched report of the land, without as much as a good word for the beautiful and bountiful country. The difference was that, now that the choice of spies was made by Moshe Rabeinu, the righteous men who were chosen to go, first extolled many of the virtues of the Holy Land, before they concocted false vices, with the result that the people, after their initial pessimistic outburst, immediately regretted their actions and did Teshuvah.

The importance of choosing the best people for the job cannot be overestimated, since even their failures will be less drastic, and more readily repairable, than if less worthy people were chosen for the task, as we now see.

According to Rashi, Hashem was merely acceding to the people's demands, granting them permission to send spies if they so wished. The expression "send spies for yourselves" simply meant that He was authorizing Moshe Rabeinu, who placed the request on the people's behalf, to go ahead with the project at his whim, not at Hashem's command. "The command does not come from Me" said Hashem. "I told them that the land is good; I swear that I will present them with the opportunity of sinning, in order that they will not possess it" (Rashi 13:2).

Jewish history, indeed world history, would have been vastly different, had not B'nei Yisroel decided to send spies. Had they but taken Hashem at His word and not queried his integrity, they would have entered Eretz Yisroel, possibly without even fighting (Rashi Devorim 1:8), and the lives of many people, including many tens of thousands of Cana'anim, as well as the entire generation that left Egypt, would have been spared. One sin leads to another, but a weakness in emunah shakes the very foundations, and threatens the entire structure.

"I swear that I will present them with the opportunity of sinning in order that they will not possess it." It is our own weak faith which creates the very problems which subsequently beset us. When we doubt Hashem's ability and His wish to shower us with goodness, Hashem responds by oepning the door to sin, and we have great difficulty in supressing the urge to go through it. We prove to the world - as well as to ourselves- that we are indeed unworthy, and forfeit our rights to Hashem's blessings. Conversely, those whose faith is strong, are spared the need to traverse the paths of sin. They walk with Hashem and Hashem walks with them. They are assured of all the privileges and blessings that He has in store for them.

"To question Hashem is to question one's own source of blessing and to jeopardise it."

Therefore, it would appear to be far more prudent to avoid provoking Hashem by our weaknesses, but rather to strengthen and to boost that source of blessing by acknowledging it, thereby ensuring its continued flow.

(Sh'lach Lecho) Adapted from the Gro

Nachal Eshkol

The Torah records that "they named that place Nachal Eshkol, on account of the cluster of grapes which the B'nei Yisroel cut from there."

In that case, asks the Gro. how can the possuk have written that the spies arrived at Nachal Eshkol, seeing as it only received that name later?

It appears however, that, in reality, it was called Nachal Eshkol already before, named after someone by that name (such as one of Avrohom's three friends). The name however, is written without a "vov", which is how Nachal Eshkol was previously spelt. Now that a second reason to call it by that name had arisen, they renamed it Nachal Eshkol, with a "vov", which has a connotation of plural (just as a plural word adopts a connotation of singular when there is a "vov" missing - like the droshoh of Chazal regarding "ba'Succos", "K'ronos" and "Totofos"). The Gro even goes so far as to say that presumably, in former times, the same word was pronounced differently with a "vov" than it was without it.

And he proves his point from the fact that the Torah itself, when it records that they arrived at Nachal Eshkol, spells "Eshkol" without a "vov", but when it describes how they called it "Nachal Eshkol", it spells it with a "vov".

The same question and the same answer are appropriate, the Gro concludes, in the possuk which describes Ya'akov's arrival in Succos, and then goes on to explain how the place was only named "Succos", because Ya'akov had built huts for the animals. There too, points out the Gro, the first Succos is written without a "vov" and the second Succos with one, so that we can give the same answer as we gave by "Nachal Eshkol"

(According to Rashi in Bereishis 14:7, the Gro's difficulty could be answered simply, by saying that "Nachal Eshkol" was named by the Torah [which knows the future] in advance.)


Rashi explains that the possuk "their shade has departed from them" refers to Iyov, who "shielded over them" etc. This concurs with the Gemoro in Sotah.

The Gemoro in Bovo Basra however, writes that Iyov wanted to "overturn the dish" - a more refined way of saying that he wanted to blaspheme Hashem.

The Gro explains that this strange expression is based on a true story of a strong and mighty king who cast fear on all his subjects. It happened once that one of the king's servants was serving the king, when, in trepidation, his hand slipped and some of the food spilt from the dish.

The king turned livid, and the servant, knowing that the king would show him no mercy, deliberately overturned the entire dish onto the table.

The king ordered his execution, but before it was carried out, he asked the servant to explain why he had added insult to injury, by turning his initial mistake into a wilfull act of defiance. Quite to the contrary, replied the servant. He did what he did solely out of loyalty to the king and in order to protect his majesty's honour. How so?

Because he did not want people to besmirch the king's name and to call him a tyrant, by saying that the king had ordered the execution of a servant for inadvertently spilling some food. Let them rather ascribe the death sentence to the fact that the king's servant had had the impudence to deliberately pour the food on the table in front of the king. The king was so pleased with his answer that he gave him a reprieve.

And that is precisely what Iyov intended to do. Iyov was an outstanding tzadik, who served G-d out of love. When he saw all the terrible suffering that he had to go through, he realised that people would accuse Hashem of unfair judgement. What did he do to protect Hashem's Name? He did what the king's servant had done. He cursed Hashem (the Gro does not explain why Chazal say that "he wanted" to curse - perhaps the reason is only a lashon "sagi nohor", like they often use the expression of "blessing Hashem" when they really mean curse). By doing so, he hoped that the people would justify Hashem's actions, and His Holy Name would be blessed.

"And You Shall See Them" (adapted from the Torah Temimah)

The Gemoro in Menochos (38a) derives from this possuk that a night garment is pottur from Tzitzis.

Both from the point of view of logic and the source of the d'roshoh, one ought to be chayav tzitzis by day, and be pottur by night, irrespective of whether one is dealing with a day garment or a night one. And that is indeed how the Rambam rules (Perek 3:7).

The Rosh however, following in the footseps of Rabeinu Tam, explains that a day garment is chayav Tzitzis (even when it is worn at night), and a night garment is pottur (even if worn in the day). No doubt, he takes the wording of Chazal ("to exclude a night garment" - they did not say, to exclude "night-time", but "a night garment") literally.

The Rosh (near the beginning of Hilchos Tzitzis, brings proofs for his opinion from various Sugyos.

The Torah Temimah however, asks on the Rosh from the Gemoro in B'rochos (14b), which states that the Parshah of "Va'yomer" (meaning the mitzvah of Tzitzis) applies only by day. Now, according to the Rosh, it applies by night too - to someone who wears a day garment.

Another difficulty with the Rosh would appear to be from the same daf (38a) which refers to Tzitzis as a "Mitzvas Asei she'hazman geromoh". But according to the Rosh, how can one call Tzitzis a time-related mitzvah, when it is not a matter of the time of day, but the type of garment, which determines its chiyuv.

However, that question is posed by the Rosh himself, who replies that since a night garment is pottur (because night causes it to be so) - it can still be considered to be a time-related mitzvah.

One might also answer the first question (of the Torah Temimah), by relating to the times of Chazal, when the vast majority of people, with no source of proper light, would change into their night-clothes soon after nightfall, and go to bed. So it is true to say that Tzitzis were not worn at night-time.

There are two major ramifications of the Machlokes.

1. According to the Rambam, one recites a b'rochoh in the day, even over a night garment, but not at night, even over a day garment; whereas according to the Rosh it is the reverse: one recites a b'rochoh over a day garment, even at night-time, but not over a night garment, even during the day.

2. If one wears a linen garment with woollen tzitzis, one will be chayav for wearing Sha'atnez in all the cases that one does not recite a b'rochoh. Consequently, in those cases that one is chayav according to the Rambam, one will be pottur according to the Rosh, and vice-versa.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HAFTORAH (Sh'lach Lecho) (Yehoshua 2:1-24)

The theme of the Haftorah is similar to that of the Parshah, inasmuch as it deals with the spies, who were sent to bring back a report of Eretz Yisroel prior to Yisroel's conquest of the land. Yet the two episodes are in total contrast to each other, as is evident from their respective outcomes. And, in all likelihood, it is to bring out the contrast between the wrong way of doing it and the right, that Chazal instituted the Haftorah from Yehoshua for this Parshah.

To begin with, it was Yehoshua, Moshe's successor, in his own right a Novi and a tzadik, who instigated the sending of the spies, as opposed to the first set of spies, whom Moshe sent only after and only because the people had demanded it. In addition, the loud and disorderly manner in which the demand was made (see Rashi Devorim 1:22), was a good reflection of their negative motives. And in any event, any action that attracts too much publicity, is subject to "ayim ho'ra", and is virtually doomed to failure from the start. That explains why Yehoshua bin Nun proceeded to send his spies without fuss and without publicity, as the possuk itself testifies, "And Yehoshua... sent two spies... quietly", although there are various other ways to interpret the word quietly (cheresh) (see Rashi 2:1).

It is interesting that both of the faithful spies who took part in the first episode were involved this time too: Yehoshua as the instigator, and Colev as one of the two spies. And, considering that Colev's colleague, Pinchos ben El'ozor, had also proved himself to be a loyal supporter of G-d's cause, even against all the odds, one could describe this team as "veterans", who would be unlikely to waver in the face of whatever difficulties would confront them.

Also remarkable, is firstly, the brevity of content in Yehoshua's instructions: "See the land and Yericho" - "Yericho" because it was the toughest place to conquer (see Rashi 2:1) and even more so, the spies' reaction and subsequent plan of action. It is clear that they were simply avoiding the mistakes and the pitfalls that the first set of Meraglim had fallen into, as we shall see now.

Colev and Pinchos were not instructed, as the first spies were, to inspect the land's strength and weaknesses, vis a vis the type of people it produced (strong or weak), the fruit that grew there, the terrain, the water-supplies, etc., nor did they proceed to do so. They did not even go to the trouble of travelling the length and breadth of the land, as they had actually been instructed. They simply spent one night in the house of a prominent prostitute (although Targum Yonoson translates "zonoh" as "inn-keeper" - see Redak), through whom they felt they could glean all the information they needed, since she, more than anyone else, would know, through her many powerful connections, exactly how the people felt about the imminent occupation. And once they heard from Rochov, not only as to how frightened the people were, but that G-d would deliver them into the hands of Yisroel, they took this as a form of prophecy. They were satisfied that Eretz Yisroel was theirs, and that G-d would indeed deliver it into their hands. They needed to hear no more - their mission was complete. Consequently, apart from the three days that they were forced to hide from their pursuers, they returned to Yehoshua, having spent less than twenty-four hours on their actual spying mission.

It is truly amazing how one's decisions and one's actions are governed by one's attitude. The first spies did not want to go into Eretz Yisroel. For reasons proposed by the commentaries, they left on their mission with the preconceived notion that they would rather remain in the desert. That being the case, even the signs that G-d sent them to show them that He was on their side, they not only failed to see, but they totally misconstrued. When they saw the Cana'anim dying, instead of ascribing this to Divine protection, they saw in it the ultimate evil - "It is a land that consumes its inhabitants", they declared. It is a bad land! (Rashi 13:32).

How different from the attitude of the second spies. They left on their mission with the prior knowledge that the land was good. It must be, because G-d had said so. They knew that G-d was on their side, and required no convincing. All they required was a sign from Heaven that this was indeed so. And for that, Rochov's words sufficed. From the two sets of spies we can learn how important it is to adjust one's Hashkofos, because ultimately, one's decisions and actions are determined by the attitude of one's heart. What is why Chazal have said, "G-d wants the heart!" (Sanhedrin 106b).

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