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Simcha Groffman

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Parshas Shelach

For parents to give over to the children at the Shabbos table

Follow the Crowd?

Having received the Torah, the Jewish people were now ready to enter the land promised to them by Hashem, the Land of Canaan. It would be an easy conquest, replete with miraculous victories in battle. They hesitated, however. "Let us send out spies, to investigate the land. We must see for ourselves what this land is like." Hashem complied with their request. Twelve men were sent to spy out the Land of Canaan. They were men of integrity, learned in Torah, the distinguished leaders of the Jewish People and of their respective tribes. Throughout their forty-day mission, they traveled together across the Land of Canaan, all seeing the same sights. They returned, however, with varying reports. Ten of them claimed it was a land of giants, too powerful to overcome; a land that devoured its inhabitants. Hysteria erupted among the Jewish people. Calev Ben Yefunneh tried to silence the people, and speak praises of the land.

If we were there, how would we react? The respected leaders of the nation, along with the overwhelming majority of the populace, are supporting a position that contradicts the word of Hashem. We know they are wrong, but everyone is following them. Everyone except . . . Calev Ben Yefunneh. For this act of standing up for the truth, "having a different spirit with him," Hashem refers to him endearingly as "My servant, Calev." (Bamidbar 14:24). Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains "a different spirit" to mean a different understanding, and a different desire, which saved him from the sin of the spies. Calev followed the word of Hashem, even when all were against him.

"Children . . .
Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against us. Everyone is playing in the street without supervision, why can't we? Everyone is rushing through davening, why shouldn't we? Everyone spends lots of time playing computer games, why can't we do it too? Because, we have to do what is right, even if we are the only ones. Just like Calev Ben Yefunneh."

Learn the Halachos

It is difficult for us to appreciate the magnitude of the tragedy that resulted from the sin of the spies. It was a time when the Jewish people should have been filled with happy anticipation of entering the Land of Canaan. Instead, when the spies brought back their report, they cried. The Gemora in Taanis 29a tells us that Hashem said, "You cried for no reason on this day. Therefore, I will make this day a day of crying throughout the generations." What day was it? Tisha B'Av, a day which became replete with tragedy and sorrow for the Jewish people. On that day, it was decreed that the entire generation would die in the desert. The Chofetz Chaim says that our present exile has its roots in the sin of the spies. What sin did the spies commit that was so catastrophic? The Mishna in Erechin 15a says that the sin was Loshon Hora. Hashem said that the Land of Canaan was a good land, and they said it was a bad land. We see from this how devastating the sin of Loshon Hora is.

"Children . . .
We know that the only way to prevent Loshon Hora is to know the halachos well. Perhaps we can ask Abba and Imma to learn them with us at the Shabbos table every week. Let's find a book that suits us, plug away, and we will learn the halachos in no time."

Learn From Our Mistakes

The final episode in last week's parsha was Miriam's sin of Loshon Hora. This week's parsha begins with the sin of the spies. Rashi tells us that these two parshios are situated adjacent to each other to teach us a lesson. The spies saw the punishment that Miriam received, and unfortunately, they did not learn from it. They committed the very same sin. Rashi is telling us that we must learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. One of the reasons Hashem punishes people is to prevent them from repeating the sin. What punishment did the spies themselves receive? Their tongues became elongated and filled with worms. Hashem was sending them a clear message that they had sinned with their tongues. You see that sometimes the punishment indicates what the sin was. Let us not ignore our mistakes or punishments. We are meant to learn from them and to avoid repeating our errors.

"Children . . .
Do you remember the last time you fought with your brother? You felt so bad when you ended up crying and being punished by Abba. Try to remember that bad feeling when you are tempted to fight again. Hopefully, it will stop you from repeating that mistake."

Enjoy your Shabbos table !

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