Pearls of Rashi – Shelach

This week we read the Torah portion of Shelach. It contains an exciting story of espionage. Moshe sent twelve spies, one from each tribe, to scout out the land of Israel. This was the land which Hashem had promised us. It is the land which we were commanded to conquer and inhabit.

The Torah lists the names of each of the scouts, telling us the tribe which they represented[1]. It then tells us that[2] “These are the names of the men who Moshe sent to scout the Land. Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun Yehoshua.” In other words, the name of the spy from the tribe of Ephraim was Hoshea. Moshe changed his name to Yehoshua. Why did Moshe perform such a strange act at that time? Rashi comments on the verse that “Moshe prayed on his behalf, ‘May Hashem save you from the counsel of the (other) spies.’” The meaning of the Hebrew name Yehoshua is that G-d shall save you.

This is quite difficult to understand. Rashi himself taught us[3] that at the time that Moshe sent them, each of the spies was virtuous. This being the case, what need was there to pray for any of them. On the other hand, if Moshe foresaw that a problem would arise from the spies’ mission, why only pray for Yehoshua? He should have prayed on behalf of all of them!

This can be understood based on the Chassidic explanation of the spy’s sin. If they were all virtuous, why would they slander Israel? The answer is, that they preferred life in the wilderness to life in Israel. Their entire existence in the desert was spiritual. All of their time was spent studying Torah from the greatest teacher of all time; Moshe Rabbeinu himself! They had no physical or material concerns whatsoever. Hashem took good care of them. They ate “Mon – Manna” which fell from heaven on a daily basis. They drank water from Miriam’s well. G-d protected them. They knew that upon entering Israel they would have to plant and harvest their own food. They would spend most of their time “making a living.” Hence their time for the spiritual would be limited. They had no desire to exchange their spiritual existence for a material one.

What they overlooked was that Hashem wanted physical existence in a physical world, “a dwelling place below.” Israel would be the epitome of this. There we would ultimately build the Bais Hamikdosh; G-d’s “palace” in this world.

Their mistake was actually quite “noble.” The only one who could not make such a mistake was Yehoshua. He was destined to succeed Moshe as the leader of the Jewish Nation. He was the one who was chosen to bring the Jews into Israel.

May we merit to return to Israel under the leadership of our righteous Moshiach!

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos and a healthy summer!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 38, Page 33-39

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 13:4-15.

[2]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 13:16.

[3]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 13:3.

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