JUNE 27-28, 2003 28 SIVAN 5763
"Are there trees in it or not" (Bemidbar 13:20)
We read this week of the tragic story of the spies. Twelve spies were sent by Moshe Rabenu to secretly inspect the land before the Israelites were to conquer the land. Their negative and frightening report deterred the Jewish nation from wanting to enter the land. Prior to their mission, Moshe Rabenu tells them what to look for. Part of his instructions was to see if there is a tree there. Rashi explains that the word tree is a metaphor for a wise and righteous person, whose merit protects his country. However, this seems difficult, because if that was the intent of Moshe Rabenu, he should have sent the spies to inspect the study halls of the land. Instead he sent them to the public thoroughfares of the city, and to the gardens and orchards! However, this is not difficult at all because Moshe Rabenu knew that when a truly great person lives in a certain area, his presence is felt everywhere, not only within the four walls of the study hall. That's why Moshe told them to look in the community as a whole, for he knew that if such a great man was there he should be felt everywhere.
It is a wonderful thing to see in our midst an increasing number of Torah scholars being developed. We will be truly privileged to call our own, a great man that can be described as a "tree." But, like any tree, it takes plenty of water and plenty of time. We should not be impatient; it takes many years to develop a community leader that we will need in the future. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"To the Tribe of Yosef, to the Tribe of Menasheh" (Bemidbar 13:11)
When the Torah lists the names of the spies who went into Israel, it attributes the Tribe of Menasheh as being part of the Tribe of Yosef. This is very strange, since it doesn't do so when mentioning the Tribe of Ephraim, who is usually mentioned as the son of Yosef only with Menasheh! The Da'at Zekenim explains that since the prince of Menasheh was one of those guilty of spreading slander about Israel, and he came form Yosef Hasadik, who was also accused of speaking against his brothers, we therefore attribute Menasheh's words as being a result of Yosef's words. However, Yehoshua, the prince of Ephraim, did not say any negative report, so he is not attributed to Yosef.
Amazing! Yosef had lived hundreds of years before this episode, and what he said against his brothers was in a constructive manner to his father. Yet the Torah wants us to know that our actions and words may have far-reaching consequences. We should never think of our deeds as being insignificant. They may have an effect on our families and those we influence for many generations. All the more so when we say or do good things, the effect can be phenomenal! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Send out men for you that they may scout out the land of Canaan" (Bemidbar 13:2)
Rashi cites the Midrash which questions the juxtaposition of the chapter discussing the spies upon the chapter dealing with Miriam's speaking lashon hara against Moshe. It states that the Torah sought to emphasize the spies' iniquity. They saw the punishment meted out to Miriam for slandering Moshe, and they, nonetheless, spoke lashon hara against Eress Yisrael. They should have heeded the lesson inherent in Miriam's punishment.
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz derives from this lesson that Hashem's punishment is presented as a corrective measure, rather than punitive. It is Hashem's way of communicating displeasure with an individual's deeds and a warning to the recipient to mend his ways. Thus, the spies were held accountable for having witnessed Miriam's punishment for a deed similar to theirs, yet not taking the lesson to heart. He states that this is the reason that punishment is meted out "middah keneged middah, measure for measure." Its purpose is to avail one the opportunity to become cognizant of his sin and to improve himself in the relevant areas.
The purpose of punishment is not to afflict the recipient, but rather to demonstrate to the sinner the area in which he is remiss. Regrettably, man sees that which he desires to see. It is a human tendency to rationalize and justify even the greatest crime. Indeed, even after punishment, the sinner will attribute his punishment to another "mistake" he has committed. From the chapter of the spies and the condemnation against them for failing to take personal note of Miriam's punishment, we derive that one must learn a lesson even from another's punishment. Miriam's illness should have served as an object lesson for the spies. Indeed, it is easier to accept a personal lesson by viewing it through the perspective of another's affliction, since one's own personal vested interests can veil the truth. May we merit to be among those who reflect upon the focus of rebuke and accept its intended lesson. (Peninim on the Torah)
Question: Why is it customary for parents to bless their children on Shabbat night?
Answer: We are blessed with an extra soul on Shabbat. With this extra level of the spiritual, our blessings are more powerful. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
When the spies returned from their mission, they proclaimed that the land "devours its inhabitants." What made them think this? While they were in Israel, they noticed that in every town they traveled to, there was a funeral going on. They therefore concluded that there was something about the land that caused its inhabitants to die prematurely. In actuality, Hashem was doing them a tremendous favor. In order to create a diversion so that the spies would not be discovered, Hashem caused many of the inhabitants to die so that the people would be too busy with the burials to notice the spies. Rather than recognize the favor that Hashem had done for them, the spies took a negative outlook and concluded that the land was not good.
Of course, we know that Hashem controls everything that happens in the world. There are times when, even though it may look like the situation is bleak, Hashem is actually orchestrating things for our ultimate benefit. We must always have faith that Hashem has a master plan with our best interests in mind.
Question: Did you ever experience a difficult situation only to later see it materialize in your favor? Are you able to see the potential good in every situation?
This week's Haftarah: Yehoshua 2:1-24.
Our perashah tells the story of the spies who brought back an evil report of the land, leading to Israel's 40 year wandering in the desert. In this haftarah, Yehoshua sends two spies to the city of Jericho. This mission was not for military purposes, but to find out if the residents of the land feared B'nei Yisrael, which would be considered a sign from Hashem that the time was right to attack.
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