D’var Torah – Parshat Shelach

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By Rabbi Na’ama Levitz Applbaum

Na'ama Levitz ApplbaumParshat  Shelach tells the famous story of the מרגלים that were sent to the Land of Israel by Moshe to “tour” or “spy” before B’nai Israel are to enter it. Traditionally, we identify their “חטא” (sin) as crossing a line between testifying as to what they saw and giving their interpretation to what they witnessed.

Moshe asks for an account,  “וּרְאִיתֶם אֶת הָאָרֶץ מַה הִוא “- “You shall see what [kind of] land it is”. The conclusion that the meraglim give, boil down to a single word “אפס”.

“אֶפֶס כִּי עַז הָעָם הַיֹּשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ וְהֶעָרִים בְּצֻרוֹת גְּדֹלֹת מְאֹד וְגַם יְלִדֵי הָעֲנָק רָאִינוּ שָׁם”:

“However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant.”

The Ramban clarifies the sin and explains that their crimes lie in the very word “אפס”, a word that describes the inability of man to achieve.

The problem with Ramban’s commentary is that he ignores the simple fact that this is being said by all of the meraglim together, including Yehoshua and Calev. If we look at the next pasuk, we see that it describes Calev silencing the nation, this is the first time that we hear him speak:

” וַיַּהַס כָּלֵב אֶת הָעָם אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר עָלֹה נַעֲלֶה וְיָרַשְׁנוּ אֹתָהּ כִּי יָכוֹל נוּכַל לָהּ:”

“Calev silenced the people to [hear about] Moses, and he said, “We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.”

In other words “YES WE CAN!”

If we look closely at the Pasuk, we see that Calev is not directing his words at Moshe, but rather at Bnai Israel. There seems to be a missing piece in the text, between the מרגלים giving over their testimony and Calev quieting the nation, we can only imagine what was going on. Bnai Israel are probably standing around, listening to the account of the מרגלים, an uproar starting as they realize that the task is too difficult, and in steps Calev to silence the nation. The Torah then gives an account why Calev was allowed to go into Eretz Yisrael:

“וְעַבְדִּי כָלֵב עֵקֶב הָיְתָה רוּחַ אַחֶרֶת עִמּוֹ וַיְמַלֵּא אַחֲרָי וַהֲבִיאֹתִיו אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר בָּא שָׁמָּה וְזַרְעוֹ יוֹרִשֶׁנָּה:”

“But as for my servant Caleb, since he was possessed by another spirit, and he followed Me, I will bring him to the land to which he came”

In the spirit of staying true to his ideals and not giving in to populism, Calev carries this weight alone. The strength of his emuna, faith and sticking to his truth is what characterizes Calev in the struggle against Bnai Israel’s despair in the desert.

Here at camp we try and see every chanich/a and hear their own unique voice. We believe that each camper has a “רוח אחרת”something to give and together we strive to build a community that is made up of many different voices and opinions.