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Pop Quiz: Which group of men between ages 20 and 60 were exempt from Hashem's decree that the entire generation will die in the desert?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"They said to Yehoshua, 'For Hashem has given all the land into our hands'" (Yehoshua 2:24 - this week's haftarah)

In our perashah, we learn of the group of Israelites who are sent on a mission to spy out the land of Israel and report back to Moshe. They go on their mission. However, they return with a report of gloom and doom. They insist that the land is unconquerable. The nation agrees; Hashem decrees; this generation will not enter the land. In the haftarah we see a repeat story. Yehoshua sends spies. Spies return with an optimistic report - the land is ours! It's worth studying and finding the key difference between these two groups.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski tells about the previous generation that came to America. At that time there were no jobs without working on Shabbat. The people would be hired and work until Friday, not show up on Shabbat, and get fired on Monday. This would happen week after week. There are stories of people in our community that would be peddlers and gain very little money in order not to work on Shabbat. What gave these people such great strength? It was that they never for one moment thought of breaking the Shabbat. It never entered their minds for a second.

The spies that Moshe sent went with an attitude to see whether they would enter the land or not. But the spies of Yehoshua never had such a question. To enter the land was Hashem's will. it wasn't a question of if they should enter the land, but only a question of how to enter the land. If a person's mind is locked in the positive achievement of his goal, the negative side never enters his mind.

We all have the strength to be as strong as the spies of Yehoshua. It's important to know your strength in order not to underestimate your abilities and this way you will ensure your success. I once saw a great motto from Ohr Samayach that we can always use: Don't put a question mark where Hashem placed a period! Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

When Moshe sent the twelve spies into the land, he changed his student's name from Hoshea to Yehoshua by adding a letter Yud to his name. The Rabbis tell us he took the letter Yud from the name of Sarah, our Matriarch, whose name was originally Sarai, and so the Yud from her name went to Yehoshua. What is the symbolism behind this message?

Sarah was the one who told Abraham to drive Yishmael out from the house because she saw him as a negative influence on her son, Yitzhak. Hashem agreed with Sarah and commanded Abraham to listen to Sarah. Here too, the lesson is that if Yehoshua wants to be the one to conquer and distribute the land to the Jewish people, he must remove all negative influences from their environment. To establish a proper community, we must be on guard that only positive and proper lessons be instilled within us and our children. That is the legacy of Sarah Imenu and that is what Yehoshua was to follow in setting up the land of Israel! Shabbat Shalom.


"[The spies] were all distinguished men, heads of the Children of Israel"

Rashi says: At that hour they were honorable and righteous. (Bemidbar 13:3)

Why does Rashi say "at that hour" and not just "at that time?"

The spies toured Israel for a period of forty days and brought back a negative report which caused intense hysteria. For this sin, the people were punished to wander in the wilderness for forty years - one year per day.

A day consists of 24 hours, and in forty days there is a total of 960 hours. Also, in a year there are twelve months, and thus in forty years there are 480 months. Hence, for each hour of the spies' tour, the stay of the Jews in the wilderness was increased by half of a month. The Jews left Egypt on the fifteenth of Nisan and arrived in Israel forty years later on the tenth of Nisan. The normal travel time from Egypt to Israel should have taken eleven days (Debarim 1:2). Consequently, the forty year punishment was in reality short fifteen days.

Hence, Rashi is puzzled by the missing fifteen days and proposes the answer that "ve'otah sha'ah- for that hour" - they were honorable, and therefore the community at large was spared fifteen days of wandering in the wilderness. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to pop quiz: The tribe of Levi.

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