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Friday, June 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Shelach

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l, Ephraim Zalman ben Chayim HaLevi, whose Yahrtzeit was yesterday.

    Clearly, the most significant part of this week's parsha is the episode of the spies who were sent to Eretz Yisroel. As a result of their negative report, B'nei Yisroel were forced to postpone their entry into Eretz Yisroel for almost thirty nine years. Although the report of the ten spies was, on the whole, a negative one, the pesukim seem to show an apparent progression of the gravity of the spies' arguments.

    When the spies die a horrible death for their sins, the pasuk (14:37) reads, "vayamusu ha'anashim motzi'ei dibas ha'aretz ra'ah.." The men who had slandered the land died. The ten spies are labeled as "motzi'ei dibas ha'aretz ra'ah," slanderers of the land, and it would certainly seem, in context, that this is given as the very reason why they were punished this way.

    When the spies come back and deliver their report, they ague that despite the beauty and plenty of the land, they do not believe that they will be able to capture it. This point is disputed by Caleiv after which the spies go on further with their assessment of the land. It is right then, (13:32) that the Torah uses this catch phrase, or a conjugation thereof, "vayotziu dibas ha'aretz..." The Torah seems to bookmark this pasuk as the beginning of the slander. The spies go on to wantonly refer to the land as a "land that devours its inhabitants." This very specific structure seems to imply that until this point, the spies were engaged in a legitimate argument. They were welcome to present the facts of their mission and offer their analysis. Had they not gone any further, they would not have been deserving of their terrible plague. They crossed the line when they began to distort the truth, when they offered their own misguided assessments as fact. It was this specific deceitful tactic that transformed them from spies to slanderers.


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