Parashat Sh’lach // “Send”

- י ל ה -

What is the fate of a person escaping their destiny?

Moses sends 12 spies to explore the Promised Land

“And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” Numbers 13:26 – 28

  • A dozen spies set out to explore Canaan. They return with negative and defeatist reviews that crush the Israelites’ spirits. As a result of the spies’ sin, the Israelites are forced to wander the desert for 40 years. “The threshold separating hell from paradise is as narrow as a strand of hair” (Yalkut Shimoni, Ecclesiastes 976). The spies’ negativity destroys an entire generation’s future. 
  • The spies have the privilege of touring the Promised Land – yet they choose to overlook its positive properties and sanctity. They do not dare to discover the unknown. Rather, they resort to fear and remain in their comfort zones. Only two of the ten spies see the land’s true potential. Spiritual affairs are not dictated by popular opinion. Every person must aspire to grow and not elude their fate or the challenges it entails. 

The spies return from their quest and instill despair among the Israelites 

“And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness…And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?” Numbers 14:11

  • “A man is sitting at the crossroads, with two paths stretching before him, one, whose beginning is level and whose end is thorns, and one whose beginning is thorns and whose end is level” (Sifrei on Deuteronomy 53). We must use our freewill wisely – and not try to escape our challenges or choose the easy way out. Thorns should be expected at the start of a journey – they toughen and embolden us. Adversity makes us stronger. Divine grace is always within reach, but we need to make an effort to access it.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “Send” 

  • Negative approaches and defeatism can shape our fate. What is our attitude toward life? Should we be judgmental? Or should we rather try to find the opportunities life presents us?
  • If we wish to eat the finest fruit – i.e., from the Tree of Life, and not only from the Tree of Knowledge – we need to share our blessings with others and cast our ego aside.
  • The purpose of our life is to not only enter and prosper in the Promised Land, but to also bring along the love and generous deeds we have accumulated throughout our lives.
  • The spies do not dare to discover the unknown, but rather resort to fear and remain in their comfort zones.
  • The gravest sins come from those who live a life full of blessings yet fail to appreciate it. The spiritually blind are unable to see the very abundance they are supposed to treasure and celebrate.
  • The role of an emissary is quite remarkable. They cannot simply exercise their own will or usual behavior. Whoever escapes their destiny will be denied personal perfection and the Promised Land. 

Devotion combines self-discovery with love; as we discover our life’s purpose, we devote ourselves to others and to our cause.