Parshat Shelach 5784: The Wisdom and Emunah of Caleiv, and Am Yisrael Today

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Shelach Lecha is being sponsored by Eli and Miri Behar of Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated L’ilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of Yerachmiel Meir ben Nissim Avraham and Refuah Shleima for Eli’s Mother, Miriam bat Leah, as well as dedicated for the safety of the Chayalim and the liberation of all remaining hostages and that they’re brought home whole physically, mentally and spiritually as well as for the good health and security of kol Am Yisrael. To the Behar family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Shelach 5784: The Wisdom and Emunah of Caleiv, and Am Yisrael Today

by Moshe Burt

this author has indicated over the years that Parshiyot Hashavua are generally compiled three or four weeks or more before the Shabbos of the Parsha. And so, our Parshat Shelach is compiled against the backdrop of the War of Simchat Torah — the animalistic, cannibalistic slaughter, by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and many of the so-called “innocent Gazan civilians, of over 1,200 Jews and others at a concert near the border with Gaza, and by invasion of Israel’s towns bordering the Gaza Strip, as well seizing 250 hostages — Jews and others.

Torah relates the spies’ (the miraglim) return from the land, the report of ten of the miraglim to Moshe, Aaron and the Am, the response of Caleiv, one of the miraglim, and the shouting down of Caleiv by the ten:

“They [the spies] reported… and said, ‘We arrived at the Land to which you sent us, and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But — the people that dwells in the Land is powerful, the cities are very greatly fortified, and we saw the offspring of the giant. Amalek dwells in the area of the south; the Hittite, the Jebusite, and the Emorite dwell on the mountain; and the Canaanite dwells by the Sea and on the bank of the Jordan.'”

“Caleiv silenced the people toward Moshe and said, ‘We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!'”

“But the men who ascended with him said, ‘We cannot ascend to that people for it is too strong for us!… The Land through which we have passed… is a land that devours it’s inhabitants! All of the people we saw in it were huge! There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant from among the Nephilim; we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes!'” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 13, posukim 27-33 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash)

The manner in which the spies return from their mission and give their report before “the entire assembly of the B’nei Yisrael,” not just to Moshe and Aaron, seems to this author, to excuse the expression, unorthodox. When military commanders send reconnaissance teams on missions, normal protocol seems for the team to return to their commanders to be debriefed — not for the team to return and share their intelligence finds with their entire battalion, etc. To do as the miraglim did, seems to this author, to seriously risk demoralization of the mass of troops and, therefore, risk utter failure of a military mission. Further, as seen throughout the War of Simchat Torah, there seems no military censorship of MSM reports and information sharing with the US concerning strategy, troop movements.

Rav Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text” on Sefer Bamidbar on our Parsha, provides these comments (Pages 120):

While the spies initial report seems to be faithful fulfillment of Moshe’s directives, one word changes everything. When the Miraglim [spies] preface their remarks concerning the inhabitants of the Land with the word “efes” [But in this context], they endeavor to change the parameters of their role. No longer satisfied with simple intelligence gathering, the spies unilaterally assume an advisory capacity.

….The spies, after all, had been sent to determine how to conquer the land, not to offer an opinion as to whether or not the land should be conquered. By venturing an opinion concerning the latter issue [by way of “efes” but in context], the miraglim sow seeds of doubt concerning the Jews’ very entry into the land.

…The spies unusual use of the word “efes” to introduce their doubts becomes particularly telling. “Efes” (literally “zero”) connotes total negation. Through their choice of language, the spies deliberately transmit a sense of profound hopelessness, striking to the core of the nation’s heart.

Rabbi Isaac Arama, in his Akeidat Yitzchak, offers a simple analogy. A servant, sent by his master to determine the quality and cost of a garment, oversteps his boundaries if, upon his return, he proffers an opinion concerning the reasonableness of the asking price. (Rabbi Goldin citing Akeidat Yitzchak, Sefer Bamidbar, sha’ar 77)

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid, page 124) :

A careful reading of the report of the spies reveals that they overstep [a] critical boundary: [The Miraglim, Protocol, Intelligence vs Opinion and Today’s Battle for the Jewish Soul] — one easily crossed in our own experience as well.

From the outset, the miraglim offer their opinions as fact.

Had the spies stated upon their return, “we believe that the nations that reside in the land are too strong for us to conquer, or even, it seems to us that we cannot enter the land,” the B’nei Yisrael might not have despaired so deeply. Opinions, after all, can be debated. Once, however, the spies offer their subjective report as fact, they leave no room for dispute. This… transforming of opinion into fact becomes more pronounced as the spies continue to speak.

Our Parsha Shelach, and the affair of the miraglim — the spies, annually brings to mind an evolution of galut mentality, virtual addiction to American foreign aid, weaponry and the resultant strings attached, as well as self-disdain among the Israeli media, academia, political, judiciary and governmental scene which manifested itself in the disunity over legislation to reform the judiciary. The result was a perception of Israel’s weakness by terrorists such as Hamas and their Iranian sponsors. And this year, this perception led to the catastrophic Gaza War of Simchat Torah which has brought into clear focus, as with the miraglim, the extreme hubris: arrogance on the part of Israel’s military high command which, with the perceived weakness on the part of Israel’s governance, has brought us to the state of affairs we are facing and continue to face today, and conjures up ways in which today’s state of affairs could parallel the event of the miraglim in Bamidbar.

This author recalls, back to this year’s vort on Parshat Shemos where Rabbi Zelig Pliskin cites Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz regarding the B’nei Yisrael in Egypt (“Growth Through Torah”, Parshat Shemos, pages 138-140) :

Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz…, commented .. that there are two aspects here. One is on the side of the Egyptians. They were unable to treat the Jewish people as slaves as long as they [the Egyptians] considered them important. The other aspect is on the side of the Jewish people themselves. As long as they [the Jewish people] were considered important and worthy of respect by themselves [self-respect and self-esteem], the Egyptians were not able to treat them in an inferior manner. Only when they considered themselves in a lowly manner could they be subjugated by others.

But in both the run-up to, and in Israel’s responsive and strategic actions in this War of Simchat Torah, we see a confluence (noun: a coming together of people or things; concourse) in the mindset of both our governmental leadership and military high command — of weakness of heart and principle and fear of the Giant — the “super power” and the strings attached to American aid — just as the miraglim feared the people of the Land, it’s fortified cities and the sons of the giant — “we were like grasshoppers in our eyes.” This fear, along with arrogance and lust for power, or for increased power, just as the miraglim feared the loss of their power and prestige upon the Am’s entry into Eretz Yisrael — are all fueled by a galut, or slave mentality lacking self-respect and self-esteem and self-disdain regarding their Judaism, just as the Am cried upon hearing the report of the miraglim. Emunah in Hashem seems not to even enter the collective minds of either the political, governmental echelons as well as military high command echelons.

Typical of this confluence in the mindsets of these echelons is the bypassing of promotion, command and thus forced retirement of a prominent Brigadier General due to his emunah-based mindset and his conveyance of same to troops under his command which went contrary to the will of the Israel’s military top command and certain politicians formerly in the high command.

So, just as Caleiv’s strong emunah in HaKadosh Borchu compelled him to speak up contrary to the ten miraglim, “We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it,” only to be verbally shot down by the ten in response, so too, was this Brigadier General’s career frozen by the high command to the point where he was compelled to retire from the military.

Rabbi Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text” on Sefer Bamidbar on our Parsha, provides these concluding words (page 134) :

[There is a] universal application of Hashem’s words in an interchange with Moshe:

Salachti ki’dvarecha: “I have forgiven, according to your words.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 14, posuk 20) My forgiveness, Moshe, is shaped by your own vision of the people’s potential. Given that your own words reflect recognition of their inability to change, My forgiveness will reflect that reality, as well.

Each year, as we approach the holiest season on our calendar, Hashem turns to each of us and proclaims: Salachti ki’dvarecha: “I have forgiven, according to your words.” My judgement of you will be based on your own vision of yourself. The higher you reach, the greater you see your own potential, the greater My capacity for forgiveness, the greater the promise for the coming year.

Each year, we, together with Hashem, determine the parameters of Hashem’s forgiveness.

May it be that kol Am Yisrael, and particularly the political, governmental deep state and military high command, have the wisdom and humbleness to internalize Rabbi Goldin’s concluding comments.

May it be that our Chayalim, regardless of the machinations of their high command, emerge totally victorious — eradicating from the face of the earth Hamas, their terrorist buddies and the so-called “innocent civilians” of Gaza who joined with Hamas in their murderous deeds, that the Chayalim return home whole — physically, mentally and spiritually and that the Chayalim Liberate and bring home all remaining hostages. And may we see the restoration of true unity within Am Yisrael.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently re-settled in Gush Katif, once the IDF, by the Yad Hashem, destructs and eradicates the wild beasts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, all other terror entities, and if necessary Iran, and that our brethren be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense. May our Chayalim return from battle unharmed — physically, mentally and spiritually and may all of the remaining hostages brutally taken by the wild beasts of Hamas be liberated and brought home to their families. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his fourth year at home in Eretz Yisrael and continues in a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May 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 nine 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 see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia as well as the US and Canada, the real Jews via matrilineal descent, make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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.