Parshat Shelach 5780: The Limited Scope of Moshe’s Supplications and Hashem’s Forgiveness of B’nei Yisrael — “According to Your Words”

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Sh’lach is being sponsored by Dr. Eli and Miri Behar of Ramat Beit Shemesh L’ilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of Yerachmiel Meir ben Nissim Avraham. To the Behar family, many thanks for your sponsorship and continued kindness.

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Shelach 5780: The Limited Scope of Moshe’s Supplications and Hashem’s Forgiveness of B’nei Yisrael — ” According to Your Words”

by Moshe Burt

In previous vorts on Parshat Shelach, this author discussed the errant protocol of the miraglim, their bogus “but,” modern-day parallels to the miraglim’s false conclusions and the ongoing battle for the collective soul of Am Yisrael.

This vort on our Parsha deals with the limited scope of Moshe’s Supplications to Hashem for forgiveness of B’nei Yisrael as discussed by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text” on Sefer Bamidbar on our Parsha (pages 117, 125-128):

We open with an excerpt from Rabbi Goldin’s summary of our Parshat Shelach (ibid, page 117):

Upon their return, the spies [miraglim], with the exception of Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua ben Nun, offer discouraging testimony concerning [their opinion of] the nation’s inability to conquer the inhabitants of Canaan. In despair, and ignoring the counterarguments of Calev and Yehoshua, the nation rises in rebellion against Hashem, Moshe and Aaron.

Hashem threatens to destroy the nation…

In response to Moshe’s pleas, Hashem relents and agrees to forgive the people, with one critical caveat: This generation will perish in the wilderness. Their children will enter the land in their stead.

Rabbi Goldin now questions and provides context regarding the extent and limits of Hashem’s forgiveness and the omissions in the substance of Moshe’s pleas on behalf of Am Yisrael (ibid, pages 125-127):

Following the sin of the miraglim, Hashem responds to Moshe’s impassioned pleas on behalf of the nation by proclaiming: “Salachti Kidvarecha — I have forgiven, according to your words.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 14, posuk 20)

What kind of “forgiveness” is Hashem offering the people?

…To understand Hashem’s “forgiveness” for the sin of the miraglim provides us with the opportunity to apply a critical rule of Torah study:

If a word of Torah appears superfluous — if the inclusion or omission of that word seems to make no difference in the way we understand the text — our comprehension of the narrative is incomplete and must be reexamined.

The “extra” word Kidvarecha directs us back… to the substance of Moshe’s plea on behalf of the people. And, indeed, a review of these pleas reveals a striking omission. Moshe’s words are absent any argument based on the people’s merit.

Moshe contends [in his plea to Hashem]:

“And Egypt — from whose midst YOU have raised this nation with Your Power — will hear… That You, Hashem, are in the midst of this nation; that eye to eye You appeared to them; in a pillar of cloud You Traverse before them by day and in a pillar of fire at night. Yet You killed this people as a single man! And the nations that have heard of Your fame will say: ‘Because Hashem lacked the ability to bring this nation into the land that He had promised them, He slaughtered them in the wilderness.'” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 14, posukim 13-16)

…Moshe’s supplications boil down to one single argument; given the personal attention and care You [Hashem] have shown to this fledgling nation to this point, how can You possibly destroy them now? Such a precipitous act would cause the surrounding nations to conclude that You failed to bring this people into their land, because You simply could not do so. Imagine the desecration of Your Name that would (G’d forbid) result. In short, Hashem, how can You do this? What will the other peoples of the world say?

Moshe’s limited petitions at this juncture stand in stark contrast to an earlier set of prayers under similar circumstances…. On this previous occasion [the sin of the egel zahav], … in addition to raising concern over the impact of Hashem’s actions on world opinion, Moshe offers another critical plea:

“Remember for the sake of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yisrael Your servants, to whom You swore by Yourself, and You told them, ‘I shall increase your descendants as the stars of heaven, and this entire land of which I spoke I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage forever.'” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Shemos, Perek 32, posuk 13)

Clearly, by the time we arrive at the Chet Hamiraglim [the sin of the spies], something has changed. Moshe is no longer comfortable using both lines of reasoning in the people’s defense…. Moshe feels that he cannot argue based on the merit of this generation, even in their role as heirs to the legacy of their forefathers. The only argument that he has left concerns the potential affect that Hashem’s actions will have on the attitude of surrounding nations.

Once Moshe’s constraints [in his petition] at the scene of the Chet Hamiraglim become clear, Hashem’s response becomes understandable as well:

Moshe, I have forgiven, but only according to your words. Your own limited arguments reflect a clear recognition of this generation’s inability to enter the land They will, therefore, perish in the wilderness.

As far as world opinion is concerned, however, you need not worry. My Power will soon be evident to all. The next generation of Am Yisrael will successfully enter the land in place of their parents.

As you can see, Moshe, I have completely forgiven — according to your words.

Through his unfolding interchange with Hashem following the sin of the spies, Moshe demonstrates a full awareness of the tragic reality confronting him. The generation that he has led out of Egypt has not made — and cannot make the transition from slavery to freedom. Recognition of this reality forces Moshe to limit his arguments on the people’s behalf and shapes the boundaries of Hashem’s forgiveness.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 128):

One final point… must be made… As is often the case, the most tragic moments in Judaism carry within them the seeds of optimism and redemption.

Each generation of our people lives on in those that follow. This ongoing truth will power our people across history and represents the substance of My “forgiveness” for your sin.

Our generation, blessed with the return of the Jews to their homeland, does not stand alone. Sacrifices of countless individuals and communities long gone were required to enable us to achieve this goal. Through their hopes, dreams and aspirations, those generations accompany us on our passage. Any successes we achieve are theirs, as concretely as they are ours.

And we will accompany our children, and their children after them, on the continuing journey towards the culminating moments of our people’s destiny.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free, as Naama Issachar is now free and home — which can only occur when Jonathan is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.