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ונהי בעינינו כחגבים וכן היינו בעיניהם

We were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so were we in their eyes. (13:33)

When the meraglim, spies, returned from their mission, the nation debated their negative report. They ruminated back and forth: Could they triumph over the giant Canaanites or would they be defeated? The meraglim were emphatic that they had no hope for success. The people listened to them, and they began their bechiyah shel chinam, unwarranted weeping – a weeping for which we have been punished with a bechiyah l’doros, weeping for generations. As a consequence, that night, which was the Ninth of Av, became the precursor of our national day of mourning. What did the meraglim fear? What was it…

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היש בה עץ אם אין

Are there trees in it or not? (13:20)

Was Moshe Rabbeinu interested in the land’s vegetation? Rashi explains that Moshe’s inquiry concerning a tree was an allusion to a tzaddik. He wanted the spies to discern whether a righteous man was in the Land, in whose merit its inhabitants would be spared. The righteous activities of tzaddikim are undisputed. If one were asked to paint a portrait of a tzaddik, he would probably depict a man with a saintly countenance, bent over a pile of sefarim, Torah volumes. Some tzaddikim are ordinary people, but have earned tzaddik status because they are mezakei ha’rabim, bring merit upon many people….

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שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען

Send forth men and let them spy out the land of Canaan. (13:2)

Moshe Rabbeinu relayed to Hashem the nation’s request for spies to reconnoiter Eretz Yisrael. Hashem told Moshe to send them. If the nation insisted on sending spies, it was best that Moshe be involved in the decision concerning whom to send. For if the nation were to act on its own, without direction from its spiritual leadership, it would be tantamount to rebellion. Furthermore, a nation without leadership is more like 600,000 leaders, each with his own opinion, acting independently of the other. Obviously, they were deficient in their emunah, faith, in Hashem. He had promised to lead them into…

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שלח לך אנשים

Send forth men, if you please. (13:2)

Rashi notes the words Sh’lach lecha, “Send for yourself,” suggesting that the lecha, for yourself, is superfluous. The pasuk should have said, Shlach anashim; “Send men.” What is added by lecha? Rashi explains that Hashem was intimating that He had not commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to send spies: Ani eini metzavecha; “I am not commanding you to do this. It is up to you – if you want to do it – then you may send.” Sometimes a person predetermines his decisions. He is not going to change, to give in, to concede that he might be in error. Nothing will…

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כל נשיא בהם

Everyone a leader among them. (13:2)

The word Nasi, prince, leader, is comprised of four letters which, when separated, make up two words which are opposites of one another. Nasi – nun, sin, yud, aleph: within these four letters are the words yeish, which means “there is,” and ayin, “there is naught.” Otzar HaChaim sees this as an allusion to the quality of a Nasi’s character. The Nasi who considers himself to be a yeish (there is; he is something), in actuality, has nothing; he is an ayin. The Nasi who views himself through the eyes of humility, who sees himself as an ayin, is thus…

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וישכמו בבקר ויעלו אל ראש ההר לאמר הננו ועלינו אל המקום אשר אמר ד' כי חטאנו

They awoke early in the morning and ascended toward the mountain top saying, “We are ready, and we shall ascend to the place of which Hashem has spoken.” (14:40)

The other night, the entire nation had been trembling with fright, weeping incessantly (and unnecessarily) with bitter tears, demonstrating abject fear that they would be forced to ascend to Eretz Yisrael and conquer its inhabitants. Suddenly, their attitude changed. Not only were they now prepared  to go into battle – they went. We all know the outcome of that ill-fated trip, but what prompted them to go? What happened to the trembling, the fear? How did it dissipate overnight? Horav Reuven Karlinstein, zl, addresses this question, but first, he describes the scenario (based on Chazal) which so captivated Klal Yisrael,…

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כי תבאו אל ארץ מושבתיכם אשר אני נתן לכם

When you will come to the Land of your dwelling places that I give you. (15:2)

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah 17:3) ask why Eretz Yisrael was called Eretz Canaan (after the pagan tribe that inhabited the land prior to the Jewish nation’s arrival). It is not as if they were a nation whose moral demeanor was something of which to be proud. Their spiritual affiliation was paganism. So why did they warrant such distinction? Chazal attribute their distinction to the fact that, when they heard that Klal Yisrael was on the way to evict them from the Holy Land, they cleaned up the land, preparing it for its new inhabitants. Hashem said, “Since you prepared the land…

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ויהיו בני ישראל במדבר וימצאו איש מקשש עצים ביום השבת

The Bnei Yisrael were in the wilderness and they found a man gathering wood on the Shabbos day. (15:32)

The Maharal m’Prague (Gur Aryeh), notes that the mekoshesh eitzim, one who gathered wood on Shabbos, carried out his act of contempt during the second Shabbos of the Jews in the wilderness. Apparently, they observed the first Shabbos. Chazal teach (Shabbos 118b) that had they observed two Shabbosos, they would not have experienced the bitter exile. Shabbos is the great panacea which would have protected them. Why did the mekoshesh desecrate the second Shabbos? He acted for the sake of Heaven (or so he believed), in order that people would realize that Shabbos observance was serious business. When they would…

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שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען

Send forth for yourself men, and let them spy out the Land of Canaan. (13:2)

Rashi comments concerning the juxtaposition of the sin of the meraglim, spies, upon the sin of Miriam, which concluded the previous parsha. The meraglim should have derived a lesson from Miriam’s punishment for speaking about her brother, Moshe Rabbeinu. If the tzadekes, righteous woman, Miriam, was punished for simply talking about Moshe in a manner that might have a negative connotation, how much more so should they have been mindful of her punishment and not spoken negatively? The question concerning Rashi’s comparison (Miriam’s lashon hora to that spoken by the meraglim) begs elucidation. Lashon hora is evil under any circumstance….

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ויעלו בנגב ויבוא עד חברון

They ascended in the south and he arrived at Chevron. (13:22)

From the Torah’s use of the singular va’yavo, and he came, Chazal (Sotah 34b) derive that Calev alone left the group, so that he could visit the graves of the Patriarchs to pray that they intercede on his behalf. So great was the ability of the meraglim to influence that Calev feared being influenced by them. Yehoshua had no reason to leave, since Moshe Rabbeinu had already prayed for him before they had all left the camp. In his Iyun Yaakov commentary to the Talmud, Horav Yaakov Reisher, zl, asks why Calev prayed at the graves of the Patriarchs. Chazal…

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