Parshah Shelach שלח לך (Numbers 13:1-15:41)
In this week´s Torah portion, God commands Moses to send an expedition into Canaan with two goals: to investigate the strength of the people living in that land and to see how productive the land is. One leader of each tribe is named to go on a 40 day expedition, and when they return, all but two of the spies tell Moses and Aaron that the people there are too strong to overcome. When the Israelite community hears this they start to complain and even say amongst themselves that they will return to Egypt.
Joshua and Caleb try to calm the people and encourage them that yes, they will overcome the people in the land of Canaan and that the Lord is with them. However, the community goes into an uproar and even threatens to stone Caleb and Joshua.
Here is where we can begin to understand that when God gets mad, he really gets mad. God is quite fed up with the lack of faith that the Israelites show and in the end punishes them by not allowing the adult generation to enter Canaan, and by forcing the entire community to wander 40 years in the desert, one year for each day that the expedition spent in the land of Canaan.
At this point, the utter humility of Moses is loud and clear. After expressing his anger toward the community, God threatens to strike them down with pestilence and offers to make a numerous nation of Moses. Who wouldn´t take God up on his offer? Moses didn´t. Instead he pleaded for the forgiveness of the community. Doesn´t this sound familiar coming from our great leaders?
And so God reduces their punishment. He will not wipe out the entire community, but only the one generation that witnessed God´s great acts in the wilderness, yet continued to “keep muttering against” Him. This rebellious generation will perish in the desert.
The name of this book in the Torah, Numbers, is taken from the Greek translation, the Septuagint, which gave the book its name for the censuses that occur in the first four chapters. But in this parashah, perhaps numbers play a far more important and excruciating role for the Israelite community: after trying God 10 times, the 40 years for 40 days would turn out to be fatal for that complaining generation. Shabbat Shalom ~~~~~~~ Ahuvah
Read the May 2015 newsletter from the European Union for Progressive Judaism. Click here to read and download.
Read Torah from Around the World #276: Parashat Shelach-Lecha – How we see ourselves. By: Rabbi Danny Burkeman.
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