Parsha sheet: Shelach – Moshe’s Gamble

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Special expanded edition in Honor of the Shabbos Sheva Brachos of Menachem Yisroel & Bracha Golda Bechhofer.

The Risk

In this week’s Parsha Moshe sends the spies to check out the land of Israel.  Rashi stresses: “Hashem told Moshe send for yourself i.e. by your own judgment (literally “L’Daascha” – by your own knowledge which will be explained later) I am not commanding you. If you want, send [spies]! this all is because the Jewish people came and said let us send people before us as Moshe self says: ‘you all approached me…(Devarim 1:22) and Moshe asked the Divine presence which responded ‘I told them that it is a good land as it says: I will raise you up from the oppression of Egypt…to a land overflowing with milk and honey…(shemos 3:17) by their lives I will make room for them to make a mistake with the words of the spies in order that they should not inherit it.”  In the next pasuk it says: “Moshe sent them by the word of Hashem” Rashi says: “By Divine permission, as He did not bar him”. After listing the names of all those who Moshe sent it says and Moshe called Hoshea Bin Nun Yehoshua.  Rashi says that in changing his name he was actually praying that may Hashem with the Divine name “Yud-Heh” save you from the plans of the spies [to speak ill of the land of Israel].

In light of these facts, seemingly Moshe wasn’t being prudent. Hashem clearly did not recommend sending the spies and even expressed that He would make it dangerous for the Jewish people. Moshe hears that, and knows it! He changed Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua to protect him from the clear and present danger of the conspiracy of the spies. What was Moshe thinking? Hashem gave permission for this ‘risky’ venture. Hashem only wants what’s best for us!   Why did Hashem endorse something that He clearly recommends against? The main questions are: what is the great danger in checking out the land of Israel? Why did the spies concoct this conspiracy in the first place?

Yehoshua & Calev

Moshe adds the letter “Yud” to Hoshea’s name so it should become an acronym for “[the Divine Name] ‘Yud-Heh’ shall save you from the conspiracy of the spies”. Why the Divine name of ‘Yud-Heh’? Calev, on his own initiative, sought to find strength to not follow the plans of the spies and went to pray at the Machpelah Cave where the Avos and Imahos are buried. In the Merit that he took that step, which paid off, Hashem gave him Hebron (13:22 Rashi). Why is it that prayer at the gravesite of the Avos in Hebron was the solution to his predicament? Why didn’t Moshe pray for Calev like he prayed for Yehoshua? Why didn’t Moshe pray for all the spies to stay righteous?

Sarah & the Machpela Cave

Interestingly enough, there is a common denominator between the measure that Moshe took to strengthen Yehoshua and the initiative that Calev took to strengthen himself. Calev prayed at the Machpela cave which was originally purchased by Avraham for a purpose of burying Sarah.  Chazal tell us that the “Yud” that Moshe added to Yehoshua’s name was the “Yud” that was removed from Sarah’s name when she went from Sarai to Sarah. The “Yud” from Sarah’s old name and the Machpela cave that was purchased to be her final resting are utilized in helping Yehoshua and Calev respectively overcome the sway of the peer pressure of the spies! What is the significance of this common denominator?

Desert & Israel – like Day & Night

The Midrash by the narrative of the creation of light at the Genesis says:”…and Hashem separated the light from the dark – this refers to the book of Bamidbar where Hashem separated the generation of the desert from the generation of those who entered the land of Israel”  if we assume that the elements of the Pasuk (light & dark) and the elements of the interpretation (generation of desert & generation of the the land of Israel) are symmetrical then light is to  dark as the generation of the desert is to the generation that entered the land of Israel! The generation of the desert is called ‘light’ and the generation that went into the Holy Land is called ‘dark’. Why is that? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Life in the Desert

Let’s contrast what life was like in the desert under Moshe as opposed to what it was like in the land of Israel under Yehoshua. The desert is not a place that can sustain life. Survival in the desert for an extended period of time is Supernatural. Those supernatural sustaining events were visible and undeniable. The “Man” fell daily out of nowhere. There was the miraculous well that followed them everywhere they went. The Clouds of Glory that enveloped them, shielded them, and laundered their clothes for them. There were the pillar of cloud and pillar of Fire that guided them. This was all parallel to Moshe’s level of direct contact with the Divine. His prophecy is straightforward, without riddles, without a trance, without trauma and the beams of light visibly shined out of his face. The nature of his ‘administration’ was parallel to his level. The people he was leading experienced revealed Divinity everywhere, constantly. Under the circumstances of Moshe’s leadership one does not believe in Hashem – one knows there is Hashem! ‘Knowledge’ was the main way they served Hashem, as many of the Mitzvos first came into effect in the land of Israel. That’s why this generation is called “Dor De’ah” – the generation of knowledge as they were under the leadership of Moshe whose attribute is “Daas” – knowledge

Life in Israel

Contrast that all with life in the land of Israel under Yehoshua. The “Man” no longer fell. There was no miraculous portable well, or the Clouds of Glory. People had to work for a living! Everything was running according to the laws of nature where a person has to believe it’s all from Hashem. Just like they had to work to live they also had to work in their service in Hashem. Many of the 613 mitzvos that were not yet obligatory in the desert started when they came into the land of Israel. This is particularly true regarding the Mitzvos that one can only do in the land of Israel, like the mitzvos surrounding agriculture. Most of these Mitzvos are about giving away to the Kohanim, Levi’im, and the poor. In the desert there were no “poor people” – everyone got their fair share of “Man” and the only work that was necessary, for those who where unworthy, was to go out and collect it. In the land of Israel there’s the rich and the poor, aside from the need to work. In such a setup it takes “Emunah”- Faith to believe that it’s all really from Hashem. Everyone is equally dependent on Hashem for their sustenance, and the laws of agriculture and Commerce are just a medium for Hashem to dispense His blessings. As well as this can be explained you still need to believe it. You only “know” when it is a visible incontrovertible fact.  With this we could understand what the Gemara says in Shabbos 31a that “Emunah” – faith is the order of ‘Zeraim’ which are the Mitzvahs that pertain to land of Israel. You have to believe that all the agriculture and the marketability of the produce is all from Hashem. You are challenged to “be real” with it by giving away huge amounts of your produce in course of a Shmitta (7 year) cycle. That all takes faith!

The Bridge between physical & Spiritual

The uniqueness of the land of Israel, as opposed to the desert or any other place on earth, is that it’s supposed to be the bridge between the natural and the supernatural. Man is supposed to be engaged in physical life in the land of Israel and connected to the belief that all comes from Heaven. It’s where Heaven and Earth meet. However, it is heaven coming down to earth! Men with literally ‘both feet on the ground’ are engaged in physical activity and yet are finding connection to the Divine. In countries outside the land of Israel, everything runs by the laws of nature but it’s impossible to make a real connection to the supernatural. In “Even Shesiya” for Parshas ‘Acharei Mos- Kedoshim’ we explained that that’s the secret of the extra pockets of space that opened up in the land of Israel particularly at “Holy places” – the extra space came from a real connection to the supernatural! Living in the land of Israel is to actually go into the physical world and find a connection with the spiritual. Outside of the land of Israel one cannot find that connection to the spiritual.

Point Center

With this we could understand the message in the very first Rashi in the Torah, and how it is so true until this day. That the whole world is up in arms about the land of Israel having been ‘stolen’ by the Jews. Our response is Hashem created everything and it all belongs to him. He took it from them and gave it to us. Our claim on the land of Israel is rooted in the fact that Hashem is the creator of the whole world. The Jewish presence in the land of Israel forces the recognition that Hashem is the Creator and Master of the Universe on the whole world! No such political turmoil or great message emerges from any other geo-political conflict. Why? Whoever controls the land of Israel is at the cosmic center of the globe, and that is the critical juncture that can, and needs to be connected to the spiritual. If it’s successfully connected, it has a spillover effect over the whole world! No other place on the globe has such a spillover effect on the rest of the world. There are seven forces that make up the natural world hence the famous notion that ‘seven is nature’.  The land of Israel was known as the ‘land of the Seven Nations’ that we need to conquer. The land of Israel is the stronghold of the core of the physical energies of the cosmos. The Jewish people are the eighth Nation to occupy the land of Israel, the eighth representing the supernatural. We are the ones that will connect the supernatural to the Natural. The land of Israel is the ‘natural’ that is to be connected ‘Supernatural’ by the Jewish presence. Our existence in the desert was totally Supernatural and unconnected to nature.

Faith in the Darkness

The generation of the desert is called “light”. One does not need faith by day when the truth is visible and apparent. The pasuk says “to speak your kindness by day and your faith by night” (Tehillim 92:3). “Times of light” represent those times when we can clearly see that Hashem does things out of pure kindness and with the intent of just bestowing goodness. “Times of darkness” represent those times of confusion and that’s when we need faith to carry on. The generation that goes into the land of Israel is going into an earthly natural Life which will require Faith to succeed in their mission to pierce the illusion of the natural order and link it to the supernatural. Without faith there’s no breaking out of the box of the apparent absoluteness of the laws of nature. That illusion can only be pierced with iron hard faith that things are not as they appear. The way things appear is “darkness”. In darkness we navigate based on what we believe and trust to be true even though we can’t see it.

Faith – the Essence of our connection to Israel

The requirement of faith in the land of Israel is not as a means of coping but rather it is the very essence of the land of Israel. Without faith there is no connection to the land of Israel. The whole reason why the Egyptian Exile was the decreed upon us was because Avraham Avinu asked “….how will I know that I will inherit it (the land)”.  He was taken to task because the land of Israel is not knowledge, the land of Israel is faith. Rashi in Parshas Va’eira brings the Chazal that when Hashem criticized Moshe for lacking faith like the forefathers, His examples come from the land of Israel. Avraham Avinu, after being promised the Land by Hashem, still had nowhere to bury Sarah until he purchased the Cave of Machpelah at an exorbitant price from Efron. He kept his faith and didn’t question Hashem or doubt His promise. Similarly, Yitzchak’s rights to the wells he dug was challenged by the Plishtim and Yaakov had to purchase the land. They did not lose their faith in the promise they got from Hashem even though on the apparent level that promise seemingly is not being fulfilled. Avraham Avinu, in his personal life, made up for having asked “…how Will I Know?” by the Faith he exhibited when purchasing the Machpela cave.

Knowledge vs Faith

With this we could appreciate the Keen insight of the Sfas Emes regarding Moshe’s error that finally sealed his fate as not being able to take the Jews into the land of Israel. He was supposed to speak to the rock but he hit it instead. Hashem described that failure as: “because you did not believe in me to sanctify me…. therefore you will not bring the Jewish people to land of Israel”. The question is obvious: how could Moshe, the greatest Prophet ever, not believe in Hashem?!? The Sfas Emes explains: Moshe does not believe in Hashem – Moshe knows Hashem. Moshe does not have faith because he doesn’t need it! Therefore, he is incongruous to the generation that will enter the land of Israel. The people that will go into the land of Israel need faith! Hashem was saying: “you are not the right leader for this generation that is going into the land of Israel”.

Moshe & Yehoshua – Sun & Moon

In last week’s Parsha, Eldad and Meidad prophesized that Moshe will die in the desert and Yehoshua would bring them into the land of Israel. It was foretold that there will be a situation where Moshe would not go into land of Israel. There are multiple allusions to this earlier in the Torah. Even as early as in Egypt, Pharoh foresaw that “the savior of Israel would be struck by water”. He thought it meant ‘drowned’ and that’s why he gave the directive for all Jewish boys to be drowned. He didn’t realize that it was referring to the error by getting water from the rock. It was always understood that Moshe’s position as the leader of the Jewish people in the land of Israel was far from certain. By the same token it was understood that Yehoshua is potentially the man for the job. When Moshe is commanded to appoint Yehoshua as his successor Hashem says: “give him from your glory…” Rashi bring the Chazal that make the inference: “from your glory and not all your glory! The elders of that generation said the face of Moshe like the face of the Sun – the face of Yehoshua is like the face of the Moon”. Moshe is like the sun which shines at daytime when everything is clear. Yehoshua is like the Moon at night. The moon cannot contribute light when the sun is shining. The land of Israel needs faith for the darkness of physicality. The moon shines at night to give guidance without changing night into day. If Moshe would have gone into land of Israel it’s like the sun encroaching upon the night time and annulling it. Yehoshua’s face is like the face of the Moon, the luminary of the night. The generation going into Israel is called “the dark” and that’s where the moon (Yehoshua) serves and leads.

The reason that there is darkness, and a natural order that obscures Divine Providence, comes from the mitigation of the Moon. In the future when “the moon will shine like the sun” that’s when ‘Nature’ will be elevated to shine Divine Light just as much as the Supernatural. That’s when it’s called the moon and the sun will be the same size.  Yehoshua, relative to Moshe who represents the Sun, represents the reduced Moon. That’s why he is the leader for the land of Israel – physical reality being what it currently is.

The conspiracy

Why did the spies conspire to speak ill of the land of Israel? The Zohar (Bamidbar 197-198) says because they were Moshe’s ‘captains’ serving under him. Being leaders of Jewish people under the general leadership of Moshe, they knew that when they go into land of Israel it’ll require a different Administration, and they’re going to lose their positions! Because of that they wanted to obstruct going into land of Israel – so they pointed out the ‘downside’ of living within physicality which also includes warfare. They painted a bleak picture which would require GREAT FAITHfaith that “Moshe’s generation” didn’t have. Yehoshua is not the same as the others. The others are purely “Moshe’s people”. Yehoshua was already predestined to be a leader in the land of Israel and that’s why Moshe it specifically prays for Yehoshua and adds a letter to his name – and not just any letter – the letter “Yud” from ‘Sorai’!

The Letter “Yud”

The letter “Yud” represents the Heavenly Realms as the Gemara in Menachos says with the letter “Yud” Hashem created the higher Realms where the soul is from. This is Moshe’s level – totally Heavenly! Rashi in Parshas Beshalach says the letter “Yud” by Moshe’s song at Yam suf (“Yashir”- will sing) represents two things: thought and the future resurrection. The power of thought is an expression of the soul (see “Even Shesiya” Parshas Beshalach). Giving a “Yud” to Hoshea – whose name starts with “Heh” – with which Hashem created the earthly realm makes the name “Yud-Heh” which represents the fusion between the heavenly and earthly. A fusion the spies weren’t interested in – That’s why that Divine Name will save Yehoshua from their conspiracy!

Sarah & The Machpela cave

We explained in “Even Shesiya” on Parshas Chayei Sarah that Sarah represents the perfect the Jewish body that can be fused with the soul. This what necessitates resurrection. The body and soul are so fused that they can only part temporarily. Parallel to that, in the big picture, the physical land of Israel is meant to be fused with the Divine presence. This is the secret why the resurrected will first “roll” to land of Israel to be resurrected. Israel is where the physical meets the spiritual and that’s where the body finds its connection back to the Soul. As we mentioned before Avraham demonstrated faith when he bought the Machpela cave for Sarah at an exorbitant price even after being promised to be Master of the land. For these reasons Calev was able to find the strength he needed to overcome the influence of the spies at the

Machpela cave!

Giving the “Yud” from ‘Sorai’ gave Yehoshua two added energies that are meant to be fused – the ‘Heavenly’ and the power of the land of Israel – the very act of giving both to Yehoshua creates the desired fusion Moshe wanted to see

Moshe’s Gamble

Moshe’s gamble was to attempt to bridge his level with the level of the land of Israel. In the future “the moon will shine like the sun”- meaning that the two are meant to be bridged – just it has to happen gradually. Moshe thought he could accelerate the process and “the moon will shine as brightly as the sun” meaning that his level of “Daas” could be merged with the level of “Emunah”. Hashem wants Israel has to be taken on faith, therefore it is not befitting that the people want to send emissaries to check out the land. Hashem said it is a land full of milk and honey, the people should take it on faith.

The criticism was regarding the people. However to Moshe Hashem says: “Send by your knowledge i.e. your level of “knowledge”. I’m not going to stop you Moshe because you’re doing it for different reason! You have a higher agenda and I’m going to allow to try to connect the level of knowledge with the land of Israel – by sending ‘your captains’ and Yehoshua.  If it will work it will accelerate the final “Tikun” of merging the sun with the mitigated moon – to raise up the moon to be as bright as the sun which represents merging “knowledge” with “faith”.  If the ‘gamble’ would have worked it would have accelerated the final Tikun that we hope will come speedily in our days, Amen!