The central event in this week's parashah is the sending of the
spies and the failure of their mission. How could the generation
of the Exodus fail in such a manner? R' Shlomo Harkabi z"l hy"d
(1890-1943; mashgiach of the Grodno Yeshiva) explains as follows:
In comparing Eretz Yisrael to Egypt, the Torah states
(Devarim 11:10-11): "For the land to which you are coming, to
possess it - it is not like the land of Egypt that you left,
where you plant your seed and water it on foot like a vegetable
garden. Rather, the Land to which you cross over to possess it
is a Land of hills and valleys; from the rain of Heaven you shall
drink water." Rashi (there) comments that the verse is telling
us that Eretz Yisrael is better than Egypt. Lest we have any
doubts, our parashah tells us (13:22) that Noach's son built the
city of Chevron before he built Egypt. Clearly Cham thought that
Eretz Yisrael is a better land!
But which is better - a land that is watered by an ever-flowing
river like the Nile or a land that is completely dependent on
rain? It depends. One who lives by the laws of nature would
choose the land that has a Nile, for one can only count on the
rain so long as one does G-d's will, no easy task. The Jews who
had witnessed the Exodus were up to that task, but they did not
feel it. They did not realize that in freeing them from slavery
and from Egypt, Hashem had freed them entirely from a This-
Worldly existence. Instead, they still felt an attachment to
Egypt and to the natural way of life that it represented. In
this way they were deemed to have rejected Hashem and His Land.
(Me'imrei Shlomo, p.200)
"Send forth men, if you please . . ."
Rashi explains: "Send according to your judgment. I do not
command you to do so; if you wish, send."
R' Zvi Hirsch Kalisher z"l (1795-1875) asks: How could Moshe
send spies after hearing these words from G-d, in effect placing
a stumbling block before the Jewish people? Surely Moshe knew
that the Land was good and that spies were unnecessary!
He explains: There were several disadvantages to not sending
spies. Moshe expected that Bnei Yisrael would march into Eretz
Yisrael and encounter little or no resistance. Would that
generation and future generations recognize the miracle in such
an occurrence if they had not first seen the Canaanites'
strength? Probably not. They would say, "The Canaanites were
weak and Bnei Yisrael had 600,000 soldiers - what do you expect?"
Also, the people had asked Moshe to send spies. If he refused,
they would conclude that Moshe had something to hide.
Finally, mitzvot are supposed to be performed joyously. Surely
once Bnei Yisrael knew how wonderful the Land is and once they
had seen samples of its fruits (brought back by the spies), they
would enter the Land with greater excitement.
These were Moshe's thoughts, and he assumed that most of Bnei
Yisrael, especially their righteous leaders who he chose as
spies, shared these thoughts. But they didn't. Hashem knew
this, of course, so he told Moshe (so-to-speak), "May your
sending of the spies be as you please."
"They . . . cut from there a vine with one cluster of
grapes, and bore it on a double pole, and of the
pomegranates and of the figs."
Rashi writes: Eight of the spies carried the huge cluster of
grapes, one carried the pomegranates, and one carried the figs.
Yehoshua and Calev did not participate because the spies' only
intention was to bring back bad tidings: "Just as its fruit is a
freak, so the Land is not normal."
R' Elya Meir Bloch z"l (died 1894-1955; Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe)
taught: This demonstrates that when one's intentions are bad,
nothing can persuade him of the truth. In fact, it is one of the
Land's praises that the fruits are so big; however, in their
desire to bring back bad tidings, they interpreted what they saw
incorrectly. They even contradicted themselves, for in the same
sentence in which they said (verse 32), "The Land through which
we passed, to spy it out, is a land that devours its
inhabitants," they said, "All the people that we saw in it were
huge." However, when one's motives are bad, logic and reason do
From Yehoshua and Calev's refusal to participate we learn that
one should not assist those whose intentions are bad, even if
one's own intentions are pure and something good can come out of
R' Zvi Yehuda Kook z"l (1891-1982) taught: Which was worse -
the sin of the Golden Calf or the sin of the spies? We would
think that the former was worse, for it bordered on idolatry, but
the Torah teaches otherwise. Hashem forgave the sin of the
Golden Calf, but the Jews were punished for 40 years for the sin
of the spies.
Why? Because Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish People are
inextricably linked. One who speaks lashon hara about the Land
strikes at the heart of the people.
(Mi'toch Ha'Torah Ha'go'ellet, II p.178)
"I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has removed you from the land of
Egypt to be a G-d unto you . . ."
The last five verses of our parashah (including this verse)
make up the third section of Shema which we recite twice daily.
However, there is a dispute in the mishnah (Berachot 1:5, also in
the Pesach Haggadah) whether this section need be recited at
In the course of that dispute, the sage Ben Zoma suggests that
the Exodus will no longer be remembered after mashiach arrives.
Can this be? many commentators ask. Look how many mitzvot
relate in some way to the Exodus. Is it not a fundamental belief
of Judaism that the Torah is eternal?
R' Meir Asch z"l (died 1852; grandson of his more famous
namesake) explained as follows in his Shabbat Hagadol derashah in
5584/1824: Our remembrances of the Exodus are of two types.
When we remember the Exodus every day, it is to acknowledge the
source of our faith in Hashem. In contrast, when we remember the
Exodus on the Seder night, it is to thank Hashem for removing us
This must be the case, for if our daily remembrances of the
Exodus were also in thanksgiving to G-d, we would, in effect,
transgress the prohibition against reciting Hallel every day.
The purpose of the prohibition, R' Asch explains, is to cause us
to focus on G-d's constant miracles, not only on wondrous
miracles such as the Exodus.
After mashiach comes, we no longer will remember the Exodus as
a source of faith, for the wonders of the ultimate redemption
will exceed those of the Exodus. However, we will still observe
the Pesach Seder to thank Hashem for the Exodus because if not
for that event, we never would have become a nation.
(Imrei Yosher p.56b)
Rambam writes in his halachic code (Hil. Kriat Shema 1:3) that
one must mention the Exodus during the day and at night.
However, in his Sefer Hamitzvot, a list of the 613 commandments,
he makes no mention of this mitzvah. Why?
R' Yechezkel Abramsky z"l (1886-1976) explains: In the
introduction to Sefer Hamitzvot, Rambam sets out the rules by
which he determined which of the Torah's thousands of laws should
be counted as the 613 mitzvot. One of these rules is that the
law will be in effect forever.
According to the sage Ben Zoma, however, the mitzvah to mention
the Exodus on a daily basis will no longer apply after mashiach's
arrival. Accordingly, it cannot be counted as one of the 613
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Arzei Ha'levanon II p.99)
Letters from Our Sages
This week, we continue with excerpts from the will of R'
Yaakov Lorberbaum z"l (died 1832; the "Nesivos").
9. When praying, have in mind the meaning of the words. When
saying the Honored and Awesome Name, have in mind what is written
in the Shulchan Aruch [i.e., that the Four Letter Name means,
"Master of the World, Who Was, Who Is, and Who Will Be," and
"Elokim" means, "Powerful and Capable of Anything, and Master of
All Forces."] Regarding esoteric intentions based on the wisdom
of the kabbalah, one must be on guard and extra cautious not to
come to heresy. Nowadays, one should not rely on any person to
teach him this wisdom, especially on one who has not filled his
belly with Talmud and Halachah. As for those who glorify
themselves as knowing this wisdom, do not believe them or desire
them or listen to them, even on the smallest matter . . .
21. Over and over I warn you: Distance yourselves very, very
much from having others rely on your trustworthiness, lest your
honesty be questioned in the end. Also, it is so easy to think
of justifications [to take advantage of others], especially when
one loves money; therefore, be very careful not to be in such a
position unless it is impossible to avoid it.
22. I further warn you not to cause any person to take an
oath, G-d forbid . . . It is preferable to lose all of one's
money than to be a rasha/sinner for one moment before G-d. If
someone is obligated by halachah to make an oath to you, let him
get away with a cherem/ban instead. You will not lose out
because of this; to the contrary, what good is his oath if he
cannot be trusted with money?
23. Avoid the need to litigate. If there is any dispute
between you and your colleagues, compromise, and do not litigate.
Look, my sons, at what Chazal said: "Yerushalayim was destroyed
only because people stuck to the letter of the law." If this was
sufficient to destroy Yerushalayim, how much more so should one
avoid it with all his powers?
24. I also warn you that if you have business dealings with
someone who does not understand [the terms of the deal], speak to
him clearly and make him understand everything. Do not say: what
difference does it make - he is willing? . . . This is the
meaning of "Love your fellow as yourself." Do everything with
the same straightforwardness that you would wish for yourselves,
and that which is hateful to you, do not do to others . . .