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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 13, v. 17: "Vaali'sem es hohor" - And you shall ascend the mountain - Why should they be commanded to only scout out the mountain? On a simple level this is based on a misunderstanding of these words. Moshe was not telling the spies to only scout out the mountain, but rather, these words continue into the next verse, "Uri'sem es ho'oretz mah hee." Ascend the mountain, which gives you the vantage point of scouting out vast distances, and thus you will see the layout and condition of the land. However, Rabbi Yoseif B'chor Shor explains the words as mentioned earlier. To avoid the problem raised, he explains that Moshe did not mean to ascend the mountain to the exclusion of dealing with the level area. Rather, he said that if they were to ascend the mountain and figure out a way to conquer it, which is a daunting task since it is uphill, they would then surely be able to conquer the low-lying flat areas.

Ch. 13, v. 20: "Ha'yeish boh eitz im ayin" - Is there in it a tree or not - See Rashi. Another explanation on a pragmatic level: See if there are numerous trees or if they have been uprooted. The inhabitants of the land knew the bnei Yisroel's plan to return to their promised land. Having many trees about in the area of expected battle allows for the enemy to hide behind the trees, a most important strategy. If you see that they have not uprooted many trees you can be sure that they feel very confident in their battle prowess and strength. (The Holy Alshich)

Ch. 13, v. 20: "V'ha'yomim y'mei biku'rei anovim" - And the days were days of ripening of grapes - This seeming non sequitur can be explained as follows: People have gone without fresh fruit and produce throughout the winter months and into the spring months as well. When the new produce ripens there is a great desire to partake. This is not limited to the owner of the crops.

Unscrupulous people steal these most desirable fruits. Farmers therefore hire many guards to make sure no one takes from their produce. Moshe told the spies that they should take of the fruit without hesitation, even though it was the season that many guards abound. (Rabbi Shlomo Ashtruk)

Another insight: The gemara Sotoh 34a as explained by Tosfos d.h. "tur't'ni" posits that eight people were needed to carry one cluster of grapes on four (or six, see diagram after the last folio of gemara) staves. Our verse lets us know that this was because it was the beginning of the ripening time for grapes. At that time, even though there are some early-ripened grapes, they are nevertheless somewhat small. Imagine the size and weight of a cluster of grapes harvested towards the end of the season! (M'oroh Shel Torah)

Ch. 13, v. 22: "Va'yovo ad Chevron" - And he came until Chevron - A Kohein remarked to Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz that because he was a Kohein he was unable to visit and pray at the burial site of a certain righteous person. Rabbi Chain responded that to even be in the city where the righteous person lived and pray there was also very worthwhile. The Holy Zohar writes that the special sanctity of a righteous person extends to three "parsoh," approximately a distance of 17 kilometres, from his burial site. Perhaps this is why our verse says that he came "until Chevron." Although Rashi explains that Ko'leiv actually came to the burial site of our Patriarchs and prayed there, the verse only says that he came until Chevron, to teach that even the proximity of this terra sancta is also sanctified.

Ch. 13, v. 23: "Va'yiso'uhu vamote bishnoyim" - And they carried it with the stave by two people - This is the common translation. Haksav V'hakaboloh offers a most novel translation. He says that "bishnoyim" means "with change," as in the word form "shinuy." The weight of the cluster of grapes was so great that there was a need to keep changing the carriers often, as they quickly tired of carrying such a heavy load.

Ch. 13, v. 23: "Va'yiso'uhu vamote bishnoyim" - And they carried it with the stave by two people - The Holy Zohar notes that the Torah first calls the stave that was used to carry the cluster of grapes as "z'moroh," and then calls it "mote." (This is obviously contrary to Rashi who says that "z'moroh" is the branch upon which the grapes grow. Rabbi Yitzchok of Vienna says that "z'moroh" is a branch, while "mote" is a carrying pole. They took a branch and trimmed it, making suitable as a carrying pole.) He answers that "z'moroh" is a stave that is still a part of a tree, while "mote" is the same item after being cut off the tree. He goes on to say that the two people who carried the cluster were none other than Yehoshua and Ko'leiv, as indicated by the word "shnoyim," the two UNITED people. No others had the strength to carry it (see gemara Sotoh 34a). He ends by saying that just as Yehoshua saw that this venture of sending spies was only fulfilled properly by two people, Ko'leiv and himself, so too, it would be sufficient to send only two spies shortly before they entered the land.

Ch. 13, v. 24: "Al odos ho'eshkol" - Regarding the matter of the cluster - This is the common translation of "odos," as indicated by Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonoson ben Uziel, "al EISAK." Once again Haksav V'hakaboloh has a novel translation for this word. He sources it from the word "m'ode," very, extremely. This word stresses either the quantity or quality of the subject at hand. In our case this means regarding the extreme size and weight of the cluster of grapes. He cites other examples, "al odos Yisroel" (Shmos 18:8), about the extreme happenings to the bnei Yisroel while they were enslaved and when they were redeemed, "al odos ha'b'eir" (Breishis 26:32), about the extremely clean and tasty waters of the spring.

Ch. 13, v. 32: "Va'yotziu dibas ho'oretz" - And they expressed negative words about the land - Hadn't they already spoken negatively earlier in verses 28 and 29? Why didn't they say the words of our verse in one go? Also, why did they wait to voice their strongest concerns until now? They thought that they said enough to dampen the spirits of then people and to dissuade them from attempting to vanquish the Promised Land. When they saw that Ko'leiv was not fazed and said that in spite of these seeming drawbacks they would still go ahead, "oloh naa'leh," they saw that their previous words were insufficient to dissuade people, and they then went into high gear. (Rabbi Chaim of Tchernovitz in B'eir Mayim Chaim)

Ch. 14, v. 9: "Ki lachmeinu heim" - Because they are our bread - Just as our bread, the manna, comes to us in a miraculous manner, so too, we will be victorious even if it requires a miracle. (Haa'meik Dovor) Just as our bread, the manna, melts when exposed to the warmth of the sun, "v'cham hashemesh v'no'meis" (Shmos 16:21,) so too they will melt in front of our eyes when "sor tzilom mei'a'lei'hem," when their shadow will be removed and the sun will cast its warmth upon them. (Rabbi Dov Malachi)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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