Back to Main Page

Think Ahead

By: Mrs Leora Bednarsh

In Parshat Devarim Moshe reviews the incident of the meraglim that we spoke about in Parshat Shlach.  There are many differences between the way the story is presented there and the way it is presented here, and I would like to focus on a few of these differences.

In this week’s parsha, Moshe seems to attribute his punishment of not entering the land to chet hameraglim.  In Shlach there is no hint to Moshe’s culpability. In fact, Hashem offers to start a new nation from Moshe after he smites the people.  Another difference, as I mentioned in Parshat Shlach, is that the word meraglim does not appear there; rather the “spies” are called tarim¸ whose role was to scout out the land in order to affirm the goodness of the land that Hashem chose for us, to get the people excited about it. In our parsha the word leragel, with its military implications, is used.  Additionally, in Shlach, the names of the scouts are given and their status of leaders of their tribes is emphasized, whereas here in Devarim, this is downplayed and we only know that twelve people were sent. Also, and perhaps this is the most glaring difference, in Shlach it is clearly Hashem who initiates the mission of the scouts, whereas in Devarim Moshe speaks of his approval of the suggestion of the people.

In order to explain some of these differences, Rav Elchanan Samet makes the following intriguing suggestion: Hashem sent the scouts in order to participate in His Divine choice of the land. At the same time, the people asked for military surveillance to be done in order to prepare for the conquest, as reported in Devarim. Moshe liked this suggestion. The mistake Moshe made, however, was combining the two tasks into one mission. The two tasks were completely different and needed to be carried out in different ways. For the first, it was appropriate to send the leaders of each tribe, each able to bring back a public, celebratory report to his kinsman to get them excited to enter the land.  For a military venture, it would have been much more appropriate and expedient to send a small contingent of somewhat anonymous people, and it would be critical to have the report brought back privately to the military leaders that would be planning the conquest. By combining the two missions, Moshe unintentionally created the situation where the ten spies who lacked faith in Hashem, by subtly inserting into their public report the military assessment, were able to inspire panic in the people rather than faith. 

Moshe’s culpability here is subtle, and therefore not reported in Shlach. But in his own assessment, he understands that there was a failing here for which he attributes his inability to enter the land. 

There are two main lessons we can take from this analysis. First, there are so many situations in life where the most subtle mixing of roles and tasks and responsibilities can lead to unwanted results.  Even when it would be more convenient to try to “kill two birds with one stone”, we should always try to think ahead and stay focused on our goal. Second, this parsha should remind us to appreciate Eretz Yisrael as the land that Hashem chose as the right place for His nation to live and flourish, and we shouldn’t let other considerations distract of from realizing this simple truth.

Shabbat Shalom!




Back to top