Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Shelach

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This week we read the Torah portion of Shelach. It tells us an exciting story of espionage. Moshe sent twelve spies, one from each tribe, to scout out the Land of Israel, the Land which Hashem had promised us; the Land which Hashem commanded us 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.

Why would Hashem pray for Yehoshua? Rashi himself taught us[3] that at the time that Moshe sent them, each of the spies was virtuous. As each of them was so good, what need was there to pray for Yehoshua. 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!

We 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. They spent all of their time studying Torah from the most excellent 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 daily. 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 food. They would spend most of their time, “making a living.” Hence their time for the spirit 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 material 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 quite “noble.” The only one who could not make such a mistake was Yehoshua. He would follow Moshe as the leader of the Jewish Nation. Hashem chose him to bring the Jews into Israel.

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

I wish one and all a beautiful Shabbos and healthy summer!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 38, Page 33-39

מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיר דורנו מליובאוויטש
לזכות חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס

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

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

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

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