The 12 Spies – facts versus interpretation

Parasha Shelach Lecha begins with the story of the 12 spies, sent into the promised land to travel through it and assess its military strength and qualities. When the men returned 40 days later, they reported that the land was full of giants. Despite the fact that it was indeed flowing with milk and honey, the conclusion of 10 of the 12 spies was that the occupants of the land were too strong for the children of Israel to conquer. Only Joshua and Caleb believed that the land could become theirs. G-d was angry with the people’s lack of faith in Him and Moshe had to intercede on their behalf. They were consigned to stay in the desert for another 40 years before they would be ready to conquer the land.

 

Ramban comments that the spies over-reacted to their own fears and those of the nation, such that they became pessimistic about G-d’s promise to the people. Instead, they should have tried to bolster the people’s courage and faith in G-d’s promise. R’ Yitzchak Arama commented that the spies not only reported the facts, but also assumed the right to make a value judgement “it is all nothing “, prejudicial advice when Moshe had asked for objective details. Rashi considered that the spies were comparing the strength of the inhabitants to G-d Himself, saying “they are stronger than He is “.

 

This week on Kol Israel’s “Mekablim Shabbat”, Dov Elbaum discussed Moshes predicament with Mishka ben David, a writer and former Mossad operative. They commented that a nation of former slaves would need a lot of faith and strength to conquer the land, and Moshe was aware through repeated experience that this faith was lacking……Today as well, faith and confidence are needed in the face of ongoing external threats to Israel’s existence, in order to continue to build a strong nation, and one that can live in peace with her neighbours when the opportunity arises. 

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