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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 13, v. 23: "V'eshkol anovim ...... umin horimonim umin ha'teinim" - And a cluster of grapes and from the pomegranates and from the figs - Why did they not also bring olives and grapes, the other two fruits that grow in abundance in EretzYisroel, as mentioned in Dvorim 8:8? To answer this I repeat a dvar Torah from a previous edition based on that verse in parshas Eikev:

Dvorim 8:8 - "Eretz chitoh ...... eretz zeis shemen u'dvosh" - The Torah could have incorporated all the species under one heading of "eretz." Yet the verse splits the seven species into two lists, divided by the word "eretz." The gemara Brochos 41b derives from this the order by which items get a priority in having a blessing made over them. However, to understand the splitting into two groups of species on a simple, non-halachic derivation level, the Meshech Chochmoh says that the bnei Yisroel had no olives or dates in Egypt. He proves this from Bmidbar 20:5. The bnei Yisroel complained "V'lomoh he'elisunu miMitzrayim ...... lo m'kome zera u's'einoh v'gefen v'rimon." We see that they complained for lack of figs, grapes, and pomegranates. The reason they did not complain about a lack of olives and dates is because they had none in Egypt either. When they were advised that Eretz Yisroel produces the seven species abundantly, there was a different level of appreciation for olives and dates, which they did not have all the years they were in Egypt, from the level of appreciation for the other species. Therefore the Torah separates the species into two groups.

A few points that could be raised on this are:

1) It seems that they had an abundance of olives, as they had oil for the menorah and for the libations of the Korban Tomid in the desert. See the Ramban on Bmidbar 4:16.

2) According to the Meshech Chochmoh the latter group is of primary value while the former group is relegated to secondary status. The gemara Brochos 41b gives halachic prominence to the first group, albeit there is an alternating factor in the priority of blessings.

3) Why would the lack of olives and dates in Egypt be a reason for greater appreciation for the next generation of bnei Yisroel? They were the ones who were told the good news of the 7 species and they had none of those species growing in the desert.

4) We find that they came upon 70 date trees in Shmos 15:27. However this can easily be answered, as this was probably just a one-time happening.

Perhaps with the words of the Meshech Chochmoh himself on the above quoted verse in parshas Chukas (20:5) we can answer his question in the reverse manner. The following is the insight of the Meshech Chochmoh as it was brought in Sedrah Selections parshios Chukas-Bolok 5760:

< According to these words we can say that olives and dates were less appreciated by the bnei Yisroel, including the generation that would enter Eretz Yisroel, since they had the flavours of oil and honey in their daily manna.>> All four questions raised above are easily resolved.


After all the above an answer emerges for the difficulty raised on our verse. The verse says that the spies took back with them to the desert "V'eshkol anovim ...... umin horimonim umin ha'teinim." It is interesting to note that they took only of the fruit that is mentioned in the first grouping in our original verse, and not olives or honey-dates, which are the two fruits of the second group. Since the spies wanted all the bnei Yisroel to take note of the unusually large fruit of Eretz Yisroel and use this as a selling point to refrain from entering Eretz Yisroel (Rashi ad loc d.h. "va'yiso'uhu"), it is logical to say that they only brought fruit that would spark great interest. Since the taste of oil and honey was daily fare, they did not bother bringing olives or dates.

Perhaps another related matter can be explained as well. Once again a dvar Torah written in a previous issue of Sedrah Selections, Shlach 5759 is being brought:

<> According to the Meshech Chochmoh in parshas Chukas that the bnei Yisroel were not as appreciative of olives and dates because they had those flavours in their daily manna, perhaps another answer to the limited choice of fruits mentioned in the mishnoh Bikurim can emerge. The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim says that the reason for Hashem's giving us the mitzvoh of taking the four species on the first day of Sukos is so that we may show gratitude to Hashem for His having taken us from the desert, a very hostile and inhospitable environment where there is no growth of vegetation, and bringing us to a land that is replete with all sorts of growth, a very inhabitable land. We therefore take these four species of vegetation to demonstrate our appreciation. Applying this line of thought to the mishnoh in Bikurim, it seems appropriate to say that since the appreciation for fruit which they had not even experienced its taste, grapes, figs, and pomegranates, was greater than for that which they tasted in the manna, olives and dates, the mishnoh specifically lists only grapes, figs, and pomegranates. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 13, v. 33: "V'shom ro'inu es hanfilim bnei anok min hanfilim vanhi v'eineinu kachagovim" - And there we saw those who fell down the children of giants descendants of those who fell and we were in our own eyes as grasshoppers - The medrash applies the words of Mishlei, "K'chometz l'shinayim uch'oshon l'einayim kein ho'otzel l'sholchov," - as vinegar to the teeth and as smoke to the eyes is the lazy man to his senders. This comparison is very well understood in light of assessing the behaviour of the spies as being improper in two diametrically opposed manners. Firstly, they diminished their own abilities, as is shown by their saying that they looked upon themselves as grasshoppers. Secondly, they did the reverse when evaluating the strength of the occupants of the land, calling them giants. Vinegar has the nature of making things shrink, as stated in the gemara P'sochim 40. Smoke has the opposite nature. It rises, as per the verse, "Va'yaal ashono" (Shmos 19:18), and it spreads out, the characteristic of enlarging itself. This is why the sending of the spies is equated to vinegar, i.e. their self-assessment, and smoke, their assessment of the occupiers of the land. (Hadrash V'ho'iyun)

Ch. 13, v. 33: "Van'hi v'eineinu kachagovim v'chein hoyinu b'eineihem" - We were in our own eyes as grasshoppers and so were we in their eyes - Why doesn't the verse combine these two thoughts and simply say, "Van'hi v'eineinu uv'eineihem kachagovim?" We may derive from this that the only reason the spies were so diminutive in the eyes of the occupants of the land is because the spies had a low self-image of themselves. (n.l.)

Ch. 14, v. 6: "VIhoshua bin Noon v'Cho'leiv ben Y'funeh min hatorim es ho'oretz koru bigdeihem" - And Yehoshua the son of Noon and Ko'leiv the son of Y'funeh of those who spied the land rent their garments - Why is it necessary to repeat that they spied out the land, as this is stated explicitly in chapter 13, verses 6 and 8? In the previous verse we see that Moshe and Aharon acted differently. They fell upon their faces in supplication, harbouring the hope that through prayer the spies would change their mind. Yehoshua and Ko'leiv harboured no hope for the spies, only appealing to the masses to not become faint of heart. This is why they rent their garments, a sort of mourning and resigning themselves to the finality of the spies' stance. In reality this is how it turned out. The spies did not relent. It is quite unusual for Yehoshua and Ko'leiv to have more accurately assessed the unyielding position of the spies than did Moshe and Aharon. This is why our verse again stresses that they went to spy the land. The gemara Ksubos says that imbibing the air of Eretz Yisroel makes one wise. They were in Eretz Yisroel, while Moshe and Aharon were not. This is why they understood better and rent their garments. (Rabbi Shlomo Kluger in Imrei Shefer)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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