This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 22 No. 34
Yisrael ben Binyomin z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be 27 Sivan
What was their Sin?
"And they came to him (Moshe) and they said to him 'We came to the land to which you sent us and indeed it is flowing with milk and honey" (13:27).
At first glance, says the Ramban, it is difficult to pinpoint the spies' sin. To be sure, later in their report, they were guilty of a malicious piece of slander, as we shall see. But their opening remarks appear innocent enough - particularly, bearing in mind that Moshe himself (in Parshas Eikev, 9:1/2) portrayed the might of the Cana'anim in far more extreme terms than they did. They were simply conveying in detail, virtually everything that Moshe had asked of them. Yet, already at that point, Calev saw fit to interrupt them, a clear indication that at that juncture, there was something blatantly wrong with what they were saying.
Indeed, there was, the Ramban explains, and it lay in one word - "Efes" (an expression of negation)). That the people were strong and the cities fortified, was true, and in itself innocent, as was the fact that they had seen the giants, Amalek and the position of other strong nations. But the moment they added the prefix "Efes" , they became guilty of biased reporting. They were telling the people that the Cana'anim were so strong and the cities so fortified, that it was impossible to defeat them.
And that is encapsulated in their next comment - following Calev's counter-argument "We will go up … because we can defeat them!" - "We are not able to go up because they are stronger than us!" (The Ramban does not seem to follow Rashi, who interprets the Pasuk as " … because they are stronger than Him" the ultimate blasphemy).
In any event, according to him, up to here, the spies had spoken nothing but the truth.
"And they issued to the B'nei Yisrael, an evil report of the land (vayotzi'u dibas ho'oretz) that they had spied, saying 'The land that we passed through to spy is a land that consumes its inhabitants, for all the people that we saw there were men of immense stature" (13:32).
The spies' opening remarks, as we explained, conveyed in detail, virtually everything that Moshe had asked of them - virtually everything, but not everything, says the Ramban. They omitted the answer to the questions as to whether the inhabitants were many or few or whether the land was good or bad, and with good reason …
Up to this point, the spies' words made a deep impact on the people, who were afraid and agitated, but they were not broken, since they were torn between the negative report of the spies and the encouraging words of Calev.
That is when the spies dropped their bombshell. It is the rumour they had been spreading the night after their return, as they were afraid to announce it in the presence of Moshe and Aharon. And it was the result of the fear that had gripped them when they saw the giants, the family of Anak, in Eretz Cana'an. Now when they realised how the people were still in two minds as to whether to believe them or not, they came out with it "'The land that we passed through to spy is a land that consumes its inhabitants, for all the people that we saw there were men of immense stature". What they were telling them was that unless one is super-fit and strong like a giant, one cannot survive in Eretz Yisrael.
The author maintains that this statement contained not a vestige of truth, as is implied by the opening words in the Pasuk "vayotzi'u dibas ho'oretz". This is opposed to 'havo'as diboh', as is written in connection with Yosef in Vayeishev (37:2), which refers to the truth.
That is when Yisrael broke down and wept. That is why the spies suffered such a severe punishment, as described by Rashi (14:37).
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
"Send forth men, at your whim, who will spy out the land of Cana'an .." (13:2).
Following a number of theories, as to whether Yisrael's request to send spies was a good one, or even justifiable, and attempting to explain Moshe's reaction, the Ramban, citing the same Chazal as Rashi, concludes that Yisrael actually sinned by asking to send spies. Bearing in mind G-d's ongoing salvation that they witnessed since leaving Egypt, they should have followed the Pillar of Cloud wherever it led them - unconditionally and without question.
Moshe's response "And it was good in my eyes" (Devarim 1:23), was not a sign of agreement, but rather one of acquiescence, meaning that he accepted their request, knowing that it was a bad one. Under the circumstances, he went on to instruct them what to do - though not because he thought it a good idea.
Even G-d went along with it, and instructed Moshe to send twelve spies, not because He agreed with them, but much in the same way as He told Shmuel many years later "Listen to the voice of the people … it is not you that they have rejected, but Me, whose rulership they no longer want!"
And with this, he explains why G-d did not list the names of the twelve princes as He did for the census and the apportioning of the land. Knowing that the process of this grave sin was about to develop, He made a point of not turning it into a Mitzvah (which specifying their names would have done), since, as the Pasuk says in Koheles (8:54) "No evil will befall someone who performs a Mitzvah!"
The Twelve Spies
"And these are their names: For the tribe of Reuven, Shamu'a ben Zakur" (13:4).
The order of the list of the spies (all of whom the Torah describes as 'Princes' - leaders of their respective tribes, though not the Prince of the tribe), the Ramban points out, followed neither that of the flags nor that of their ages.
In fact, he explains, they follow the wisdom and age of the incumbent. And the same system is used later in Parshas Pinchas, regarding the Princes who were appointed to apportion Eretz Yisrael to the members of their respective tribes.
Interestingly, although G-d instructed Moshe to appoint princes, He did not specify them by name (as He did on all other occasions that princes were required). For the reason, see previous Pearl.
Nesachim & Chalah
"When you will come to the Land of your dwellings …" (15:2).
Immediately following the incident with the spies, the Torah discusses the Mitzvah of Nesachm (the drink-offerings) that accompanied most Korbanos, and that of Chalah, both of which would only apply once they entered Eretz Yisrael, as the Pasuk specifically points out.
Indeed, the Ramban suggests, the Torah mentions them here precisely because they would only apply later, to reassure them that nothing would occur to prevent their children from entering the Land, once the decree that they would die in the desert was lifted.
With regard to the Nesachim in the desert, the author cites two opinions; Some maintain that, apart from the Korban Tamid (where the Nesachim are mandatory - See Tetzaveh, 29:40), they did not bring Nesachim at all in the desert. Interestingly, even the Princes, brought virtually every type of Korban at the inauguration of the Mishkan, but not Nesachim!
Others however, maintain that it was specifically private Korbanos that did not require Nesachim in the Desert, but that all communal Korbanos, did.
According to the Seforno, the Torah adds the two above Mitzvos here, because, having sinned and dropped their level of sanctity, their Korbanos and their dough needed additional aspects of Avodah to bring them back to their original level.
One Outsize Mistake
"And if you err and fail to do all these Mitzvos …" (15:22)
From the words, in Pasuk 24, "If, from the eyes of the congregation it was done in error", says the Ramban, it is clear that the Pasuk is talking about a sin, or sins, that one perpetrated, and not a Mitzvah that one failed to observe, in spite of the implication to the contrary of the current Pasuk.
On the other hand, he says, the Korban here differs from the regular sin-offering discussed in Vayikra, inasmuch as there the community brings a bull as a Chatas, whereas here, they bring a bull as an Olah and a she-goat as a Chatas.
Moreover, the Torah there refers to Yisrael transgressing "one of the Mitzvos of Hashem", whilst here, it speaks of contravening 'all His Mitzvos'.
Taken at surface value, the Ramban explains, the Torah seems to be referring to where the people contravene the entire Torah - by mistake. In the case of an individual, this is possible in the case of a child who was taken into captivity and brought up by non-Jews. And he presents three possibilities as to how it might apply communally: 1). Where the people thought that the Torah was given to be adhered to temporarily, and that it no longer applies or 2). Where they believed that they have the option of being released from the yoke of Torah if they are willing to forego the reward - as occurred in the time of Yechezkel (see 20:1); or 3). Where they simply forgot the Torah - as occurred both in the days of the Ten Tribes, who were misled by Yerav'am and other wicked kings, and in the days of Ezra, after they returned from Galus Bavel.
Chazal however, interpret the Pasuk with regard to Yisrael transgressing the sin of idolatry - the one Mitzvah which is equivalent to all the Mitzvos. For, as the Ramban explains, once a person worships idols, in whatever form it may be, he denies the Oneness of G-d and automatically negates the entire Torah.
Incidentally, the Torah inserts this Parshah here, following the people's recent statement 'Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt" (14:4), implying that they wanted to return to their situation before the Exodus - without Torah and without Mitzvos (Ramban).
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