Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Shelach II

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This week we read the Torah portion of Shelach. It begins by telling us the story of twelve spies who Moshe sent to scout the Land of Canaan, which Hashem had promised to give the Jews.

Of the twelve spies, only two gave a good report about the land. The rest spoke badly of Israel and tried to discourage the Jews from going there. Their preference was to remain in the wilderness.

The two spies who gave a good (meaning honest) report, were Yehoshua and Kaleiv. The Torah tells us that they reported to the Jewish nation that[1] “… the land we passed through to scout is exceedingly good. If Hashem desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us. It is a land flowing with milk and honey.”

They then warned the Jews that[2] “you shall not rebel against Hashem, and you will not fear the people of that land. They are (like) our bread. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” Rashi cites the words “their protection is removed from them,” and comments as follows. “Their shield and strength, their virtuous ones who protected them – meaning Iyov-Job, have died. Another interpretation is that the shade (meaning protection) of G-d has departed from them.” We need to understand why Rashi needs to offer two explanations. Rashi only does so when something is lacking in the first explanation, which the second explanation answers. That does not seem to be the case here.

The Rambam writes that if an idol-worshipper slaughters an animal, it is considered a Neveilah by Rabbinic decree. As such, it causes ritual impurity[3] [4]. The Ra’avad[5] argues with him. He contends that an idolater has the Halachic status of an animal. Therefore their Shechita is nothing. It renders the animal is a neveilah on a Torah level.

The Rogotchover Gaon explains the basis of their disagreement[6]. The Ra’avad holds that an idolater is a non-entity. As such, his slaughter lacks substance; it is as if the animal died of sickness or old age. Contrast that with the Rambam, whose position is that an idol worshipper is an entity. Therefore, an act of Shechita – ritual slaughtering which he performs is considered an action, at least in terms of ritual impurity. Hence, the animal is ritually impure only on a rabbinic level.

Rashi’s first explanation seems to hold that an idolater is a non-entity. We, therefore, cannot say that G-d’s protection departed from them. Why would Hashem protect something which does not exist? His second explanation agrees with the Rambam. An idol worshipper is an entity. Hence, we can say that Hashem’s protection, which they had enjoyed, had been removed from them.

I wish you a beautiful Shabbos and healthy summer!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 18, Pages 165-170

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 14:7-8.

[2]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 14:9.

[3]. The Laws of Avos Hatumah Chapter 2, Paragraph 10.

[4]. An animal that dies of any cause other than Shechita has the status of a Neveilah, which causes ritual impurity.

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. Tzafnas Pa’ane’ach on the Torah, the Haftorah of Parshas Emor.

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