Commentary for Shlach Lecha

12 Jun

In this week’s parshah, the Israelites send spies to scout out the Promised Land. When the spies return, they tell the people of the greatness of the Promised Land. They bring back an example of the gigantic fruit that grows there (a cluster of grapes so large that it required two of them to carry it on a special carrying frame), and confirm that it does indeed flow with milk and honey. But they also brought back military reports. The kingdoms are too powerful to defeat, the cities are too well defended to besiege, and the people who live there appear to be the offspring of giants, so tall that, as the spies themselves put it, they must have looked like grasshoppers to them. A land that “devours its settlers (Num. 13:32)”


For ten of the twelve spies, this was clear evidence that the land could never be conquered, and the Israelites bought into this pessimistic view. This stirred the people up into a frenzy of rebellion. After all of this trekking through the blistering heat of the unforgiving desert, the land that was promised to them was impossible to settle in without being crushed by its current inhabitants? After all of the effort they put in to this grand journey, they were utterly furious to hear that it had been doomed to end in failure all along.


But the other two spies, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephuneh, stood up in front of the angry mob of Israelites and said “The land that we have traversed and scouted is an exceedingly good land. If The Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to us… have no fear of the people of the country for they are our prey. Their protection has departed from them, but The Lord is with us. Have no fear of them (Num. 14:7-9)!” The Israelites responded by threatening to pelt them with stones.


Many times in our lives we are confronted by people who balk in the face of adversity. People who won’t want to try to take that next step because it seems like so much work to do. Defeatism is contagious; it spreads quickly and takes root deep. But if the cause is truly worthwhile and mission is truly doable, we must stand up for it, just like Joshua and Caleb do in this week’s parshah. In the end, Joshua and Caleb were right. The Israelites had all of the tools they needed to conquer the Promised Land, and they did so. If we have the right tools, we, too, can accomplish whatever we set our minds to so long as we do not give in to defeatism,

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