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   by Jacob Solomon

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1. What, according to Rashi, may be learnt from the Torah's putting the story of the Spies immediately after the story of Miriam (in the previous Parasha)?

2. According to the Ramban, what in the content of the report of the Spies was wrong?

3. In praying to G-d for forgiveness of the Israelites after the mass hysteria following the Spies' reports, Moses used only seven out of the Thirteen Attributes of G-d. Why, according to the Ramban, did he not use the remaining six?

4. What, according to the Talmud (Arachin 15a), were the ten times that the Israelites sorely tried G-d's patience?

5. Why, according to the Ohr Hachayim, did G-d not accept the Israelites' repentance after the sin of the Spies? (14:40)

6. In referring to the Tzitzit, the Torah says 'u-re-e-tem oto' - 'you shall see it' rather than 'you shall see them'.

How does the Talmud (Menachot 43b) explain the use of the use of the singular, rather than the expected plural?


1. The Torah's putting the story of the Spies immediately after the story of Miriam (in the previous Parasha) is to illustrate how important it is to learn from other people's mistakes. For Miriam, Moses' sister, was punished with tzaraat for speaking improperly about Moses. The Spies ought to have learnt from her conduct that wrongful negative reporting brings G-d's grave displeasure, but they did not.

2. According to the Ramban, none of the facts that the Spies reported were actually untrue. However, they phrased that report to distort the truth, and to cause the Israelites to panic and lose faith. They did that by setting the facts within their own framework of their own personal negative thinking.

3. According to the Ramban, each of the Thirteen Attributes of G-d is appropriate to different situations, and only seven of them were relevant here. The Thirteen Attributes contain G-d's name twice - once referring to His mercy before the sin and once to His mercy after the sin - here of course, only the second Hashem was relevant because it shows G-d's mercy to sinners after the sin. The next words 'kel rachum ve-chanun' 'G-d - Compassionate and Gracious' did not fit in because they only apply to those who have shown repentance - and the Israelites had not shown that remorse. The attribute of 'emet' 'Truth' is omitted here because Truth is absolute and does not allow for the compromise and leniency that Moses sought for the Israelites. Moses also omitted 'notzer chesed la-alafim' 'Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations' because that referred to the merits of the Patriarchs. For they loved the Holy Land that the Israelites had now rejected. And Moses did not speak of G-d as one who forgives 'chata-a' 'sin in error' because the sin of the Spies had been committed intentionally.

4. The ten times that the Israelites sorely tried G-d's patience were (a) in their outburst against Moses when the Egyptians chased them to the Red Sea (b) in their unseemly grumblings at the bitter waters at Marah (c) in their unseemly grumblings when soon afterwards they ran out of food in the desert (d) in their leaving manna over even when told not to (e) in their leaving the camp to gather manna on the Seventh Day against express instructions (f) in their unseemly grumblings when the water ran out at Refidim (g) in the sin of the Golden Calf (h) in their grumblings to Moses after they set off from Mount Sinai (11:1) (i) in their unreasonable complaints about the manna as a source of food and (j) in the sin of the Spies' report and the mass hysteria following it.

5. According to the Ohr Hachayim, although the Israelites confessed that they sinned (14:40), they did so because of the severity of the punishment, not out of total deep remorse for their involvement in the sin of the Spies. The repentance was not complete.

6. The Talmud (Menachot 43b) explains that use of the use of the singular, rather than the expected plural means that by looking at the tzitzit you shall see 'oto' - the Almighty Himself. For the tzitzit are a constant reminder of G-d's Presence, which should inspire a person to remember His commandments, and not blindly follow his own desires and passions.


'You shall not stray after your heart and after your eyes.' (15:30).The word latur is unique to this Parasha. It occurs at the beginning, with the account of the Spies: Send for yourselves men and they shall spy out (veyaturu) the Land of Canaan (13:2) and at the end: You shall not stray (taturu) after your heart and after your eyes. What is the connection between the two sections: the first about the Chet Hamraglim and the second about Tzitzit?

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara


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