Parashat Shelah

L'ilui Nishmat Habib and Shirley Chera by Martin Chera and family

Parashat Shelah

Our Rabbis teach us that there is a very distinct connection between last week’s Perashat Naso and this week’s Perashat Shelah. In Naso, Miriam is punished for speaking Lashon Hara about her brother Moshe to her other brother Aharon, even though the Midrash explains that her intentions and motivations were completely innocent. In this week’s Perashah, the spies were accused of speaking Lashon Hara about the Land of Israel. As Rashi points out, they did not learn their lesson, even though they witnessed what happened to Miriam. The fundamental mistake that Miriam makes is that she treats Moshe like any other prophet. Moshe has to be available to speak to Hashem at any time of day or night, whereas Aharon and Miriam, who are also prophets, communicate with Hashem through dreams and visions and at limited times. In the same way, the Land of Israel is different from just any other land. Israel is a land that has Beracha from Hashem and is therefore above Nature, but only when its inhabitants are the people of Am Yisrael who were chosen by Hashem to live there. When the Jews were sent out of the Land of Israel, it lay fallow for 2000 years, until the Jews reestablished the State of Israel and the land began to flourish again. Thus by speaking against Moshe and against the Land of Israel, Miriam and the spies make the same mistake: she assumes that Moshe is a prophet like all others, and the spies assume that the Land is a land like all others. In this week’s Perashah, Shelah, we learn about one of the most important episodes in our history, which affects us to this very day. Hashem says to Moshe: "Shelah lecha anashim veyaturu et eretz kenaan asher ani noten le’Bnei Yisrael". "Send out for yourself (lecha) men who will scout the Land of Kenaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel." Rashi, following Midrash Tanhuma, comments on lecha, for yourself, explaining that“Hashem said to Moshe, I am not commanding you, but if you wish, you may send, according to your understanding.” The Israelites had asked Moses to send men ahead of them (Devarim 1:22) and the Rabbis explain that this is one of the reasons that Moshe was not allowed to enter the Land of Israel. In what way was Moshe at fault for letting the twelve spies, who were leaders of their tribes, scout out Kenaan? The fact that the people wanted to send spies to check out the land was totally disrespectful to Hashem, who had just saved them from the hands of Pharoah and the Egyptians. Hashem split the sea for them, defended them when Amalek attacked them from behind at Rephidim, led them to Har Sinai and gave them the Torah. He then protected them through all the years of their wandering in the desert, sending them the Mann for food and the Clouds of Glory to shield them. So how can B'nei Yisrael ask Moshe to check out the land. How could they suspect that the land could be bad or dangerous in any way? The Rabbis explain further that the spies were biased and did not give an accurate report, because they were worried that if they would lose their positions once the people entered Kenaan. They felt compelled for this reason to find fault with the land and speak Lashon Hara about it. The entire nation, even the members of the Sanhedrin, became convinced through their persuasive report that the advance to Eretz Yisrael was doomed and that Moshe and Aharon had misled them by taking them out of Egypt. This seems to be a problem of human nature. Even when Hashem is performing open miracles for B'nei Yisrael, and even when it is so obvious that Hashem is with them, they continue to complain and express lack of trust. The Pesukim that begin Perek 14 are astonishing: "The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice: The people wept that night. All of B'nei Yisrael spoke against Moshe and Aharon, and the entire assembly said to them: If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in the wilderness! Why is Hashem bringing us to this land to die by the sword? Our wives and young children will be taken captive! Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?" This tragedy of their delusional fears had far-reaching consequences. Hashem decides: "They indulged in crying without a cause, so now I will establish this night for them as a time of crying throughout the generations". That night was, as the Rabbis teach us, Tish'ah B'Ab. Tish'ah B’Ab is the date on which tragedy after tragedy was to occur throughout Jewish history. On this date both Temples were destroyed, the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 began, World War 1 broke out, and Hitler drafted his plan "The Final Solution" to mass murder the Jews of Europe on July 31, 1941 which was also the Hebrew date of 'Ereb Tish'ah B'Ab. We must learn from these lessons of history to be careful about crying for no reason. We must appreciate that Hashem is the source of all our Berachot and if we decide to cry without a reason, then Has V'Shalom He may give us a reason to cry, as He has done on Tish'ah B'Ab through the ages. Another powerful lesson we learn from this episode is found in the spies’ report: "vanehi be’enenu ka’hagavim vechen hayinu b’enehem." "We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we were in their eyes". Rabbi Twersky writes that this statement is the basis of all of his teachings about self-esteem. A lack of self-esteem can lead a person to drugs or alcohol or a gambling addiction, which unfortunately is all too common. All these addictions are an effort to escape a sense of being unworthy. The Torah is teaching us here that the way you feel about yourself is actually the way you think others perceive you! There are countless stories of people who became successful in life and can attribute a large part of their success directly to their parents and how they were brought up as a child. I strongly believe that this is one of the major faults of society today, both in our homes and in our schools. Our children too often suffer from low self-esteem. This need not be the case, but often the adults who are their role models may have had a low self-esteem themselves. This fuels an endless spiral of negativity that holds us back and will ultimately limit our growth and our advancement as a society and a people. So in order to offset this dilemma, it is crucial that we build up our children, reward them for their accomplishments and act as positive role models, whether it be our own children, grandchildren, students, and so on. May we all learn to appreciate all that Hashem gives us and know that whatever he gives us, whether we perceive it as good or bad, is always good. Also, we must make it our business to never complain about our situation because it can always be worse and we need to remember that, even considering the decadence that surrounds us in this Galut, we're living in much better times in this country, with the freedom to practice our Judaism, than our ancestors. May we also build up our children so they have a healthy self-esteem and can eventually be valuable contributors to society and Am Yisrael! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam Moshe Ben Mazal