Parshat Shelach

The spies of Moses carrying grapes

Bamidbar 13:27-33, 14:1-4
This is what they told him: “We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the country are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large; moreover, we saw the Anakites there. Caleb hushed the people before Moses and said, “Let us by all means go up, and we shall gain possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We cannot attack that people, for it is stronger than we.” Thus they spread calumnies among the Israelites about the land they had scouted, saying, “The country that we traversed and scouted is one that devours its settlers. All the people that we saw in it are men of great size; we saw the Nephilim there – the Anakites are part of the Nephilim – and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.” The whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night. All the Israelites railed against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in the land of Egypt,” the whole community shouted at them, “or if only we might die in this wilderness! Why is the LORD taking us to that land to fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be carried off! It would be better for us to go back to Egypt!” And they said to one another, “Let us head back for Egypt.”

Have you experienced a situation were a group of people started to panic about a situation? What was that like?

Rabbi Henach Leibowitz They had seen the Ten Plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea and the defeat of the Egyptians. They lived miraculously in the totally barren desert under the nurturing care of Hashem. Had
they taken these experiences to heart, they could have reached a level of bitachon – trust in Hashem …

What does this suggest about the limits of experience? Why do you think a seemingly powerful experience would have little sustained impact?

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe
The defining aspect of mussar is to understand that not only is one meant to see everything that he observes, but he is supposed to learn something from everything that occurs. A person can relate to current events in two different ways. He can think to himself, It’s so terrible to hear about all the wars and suffering going on in the world. Alternatively, he can look at these events from a more personal perspective: Soldiers and civilians are being killed and wounded. How does this affect me, and what am I doing about the situation? The second approach can be referred to as the mussar perspective.

What is this telling us about how to turn experiences into real inner change?

Bamidbar 14:39-42
…the people were overcome by grief. Early next morning they set out toward the crest of the hill country, saying, “We are prepared to go up to the place that the LORD has spoken of, for we were wrong.” But Moses said, “Why do you transgress the LORD’s command? This will not not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be routed by your enemies, for the LORD is not in your midst. “

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler
This is difficult to understand. All the ingredients of teshuva [repentance] seem to have been present. There was confession, remorse, and resolution for the future. Why was their repentance not accepted?

How would you answer this question? Rabbi Dessler’s answer is that we have to work through the consequences of our transgressions – choices. What do you think of that answer? What is the value of teshuvah, in that case?

Rabbi Wolbe answers the question this way: It is possible to err when one intends to do teshuvah. A person might have the necessary components of repentance – remorse and a resolution to improve – but still overlook one vital aspect: he must know to what he is returning. … When Bnei Yisrael wished to rectify their wrongdoing, they once again disregarded the word of Hashem by setting out to conquer Eretz Yisrael. This was not the teshuvah that Hashem desired, however … the first step in their process of teshuvah should have been to comply with his will.

Does Rabbi Wolbe’s answer clarify this question for you? How do you know what teshuvah that Hashem desires?