Sunday, June 18, 2006

How Did They Answer the Young People?

Sometimes the weekly Torah portion that we read every Sabbath morning is rather obscure, and we need the Rabbinical commentaries in order to understand it. Sometimes the plain text fairly leaps off the page, and the relevance to today is crystal clear. Yesterday's reading, Shlach (Numbers chapters 13-15) was in the second category.

It tells of Moshe sending twelve spies to Canaan (later to be Eretz Yisrael) to check out the place and bring back a report. All twelve saw the same things, but their interpretation of what they saw was different. Ten out of twelve said that although the land was very fertile, the people there were giants and that they would never be able to beat them and conquer the land (despite G-d's assurances otherwise). Calev and Yehoshua were the only ones who said that they should "go up" (where we get the word aliyah from) and that they would be able to defeat the people, and they emphasized the land "was very good".

Some of Bnei Yisrael listened to the "majority" and began complaining and crying. According to the medrashim, (Rabbinical interpretations) the women agreed with Calev and Yehoshua, and had faith that things would be all right.

In the end G-d punished the naysayers. The ten spies who brought back a bad report were killed immediately, and all of Bnei Yisrael were to wander in the desert for forty years - until all of the men who complained would die off. The women, and those under the age of 20, and Calev and Yehoshua would survive and go into what would be Eretz Yisrael.

There are so many lessons to learn from this Torah portion - the most obvious of course is the fact that faith, or lack of it, in G-d colors your perspective of reality and has far-reaching consequences.

But I have some other questions that I probably won't find answers to about the aftermath of this parsha (Torah portion). When Bnei Yisrael were wandering in the desert for the next 38 years, how did they answer the questions posed to them by their young people (which can be asked today also)?

Questions like how was it that some of the spies (a majority, no less) came to the wrong conclusion, when Calev and Yehoshua didn't?

Why did the women have faith, but most of the men didn't?

And, more poignantly, why is it that we have to suffer for the lack of faith of others?

Painful questions - unclear answers.


Blogger Sharvul said...

It is somewhat amusing to see how every year, on or around parashat Shelach, the "west bankers" and their supporters creep out of their holes and hint (ever so subtly mind you) about the relevance of the meragelim story to our day and age.

I invite you to read this for a different angle on the parasha.

Incidentally, I read yesterday a commentary along the same lines of the one I posted a year ago, about the careless irresponsiblity of some who insist on interpreting the will of God their own way. It was by R. Neventzal (hardly a "leftist").

10:55 AM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Sharvul: Im out in the open all the time -- don't understand why you have to be so antagonistic.

The Zohar has its reason about why the spies spoke so badly about Israel. I wrote about it here

3:12 PM, June 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharvul you need to learn deeper, yes they died for going up prematurely but do you not recall they were resurrected, for they were the dry bones of Yechezkel's vision. So yes they died and suffered but in the end they inherited the land anyway.

5:51 AM, June 19, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

jameel - it seems that Treppenwitz also wrote about the parsha. I guess we "westbankers" seem to think alike ;)

kahaneloyalist - where did you see that?

8:49 AM, June 19, 2006  
Blogger Erica said...

Women in chumash are amazing, and the actions they perform - i.e. the mirrors, stalling to collect jewelry for the sin of the golden calf, faith in Calev & Yehoshua, etc - constantly underscores their lofty spiritual plateau.

3:46 PM, June 21, 2006  
Blogger Shanah said...

When Bnei Yisrael were wandering in the desert for the next 38 years, how did they answer the questions posed to them by their young people (which can be asked today also)?

"Don't be like us. Whatever you do, DON'T BE LIKE US. Do you want to live in this desert forever?!"

Questions like how was it that some of the spies (a majority, no less) came to the wrong conclusion, when Calev and Yehoshua didn't?

"See those guys? They are really smart guys. Why? They trust HaShem. TRUST HASHEM! Don't be like us!!! Do you want to roam in this desert forever?"

Why did the women have faith, but most of the men didn't?

Interesting note: Tovia Singer kept commenting on the vast majority of young women versus men at the Israel Day Concert in NYC. I wonder if there is something innate in the Jewish female character that drives them to a deeper/different level of faith in HaShem's promises.

And, more poignantly, why is it that we have to suffer for the lack of faith of others?

The constant struggle of Israel in a nutshell: when am I part of the community, and when can I stand alone? Maybe part of the answer can be found in Ezekiel, where HaShem details how sin is and isn't transferred from father to son.

Great parsha, and great commentary.

8:06 PM, June 21, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

erica - you are right.

shanah - welcome to my blog

3:18 PM, June 22, 2006  
Blogger Shanah said...

WestBankMama-- Todah for the welcome. I've been a reader for a while. Keep blogging! We need to hear your voice!!

Shabbat Shalom in advance :)


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