Torah Portion Shelach (Send) Numbers (B’Midbar) 13-15

Haftorah Reading: Joshua 2:1-24

Tonight we will concentrate on verses covering the sin of the spies. First, just a word about several Hebrew words that may add some understanding to our story, in Numbers 13:2 we read in English that the mission of the 12 men was to spy out the Land. In Hebrew the word is “latur” which more closely means to “tour.” Moshe instructed them to bring back a report from their travels and in the process find out who lived there, how was the produce of the land and what were the people like.  Scripture tells us this assignment happened at the time of the first grape harvest, which would be late July until mid August. In Numbers 13:17 Moshe told them to “go up.” This word is always used when talking about entering the Land of Israel. It gives us some idea of G-d’s view and feeling toward the Land. Even today when Jews immigrate to Israel the word used to describe them is “Olim” or people who have gone up, no matter where in the world they came from.

Now we will get to the “tour” of the Land and the report brought back by the travelers. As we talk about this I want each of us to see if we, in our own lives, have any of the qualities expressed by these travelers.  First, in Numbers 13:27, the men started off with saying yes the Land truly flowed with milk and honey. They mentioned the fruit they brought back. However, they then immediately followed with the obstacles that lay before anyone going up to take the Land. They said the people were strong, even giants. The cities were fortified. Their verdict was conquest was impossible. There was no room for any other option, it was all black and white. They could have said, “It will be difficult but with G-d’s help we can do it.” Their thinking was either – or. Are we sometimes guilty of this thinking? Maybe G-d has given me a task but I begin to think, “Who am I? I can’t do this. I’m not smart enough.” Are we ever guilty of leaving G-d out of the picture? Do we ever look at a situation through our eyes and it is black and white, hopeless?

They and the people of Israel fell into a negative mind set. Disaster was coming no matter what. (Numbers 14:1-4) They felt their only option was to run back to Egypt and forget about G-d’s promises. Do we sometimes do the same?

Another negative action we see here is mind reading, assuming what other people are thinking. We jump to conclusions about someone based on our own feelings, not theirs. Look at Numbers 13:33. The men reported that they seemed as grasshoppers in their own eyes and also in the eyes of inhabitants of the Land. They really had no way of knowing what the people of the Land thought about them but they imposed their own self image onto the inhabitants of the Land. Do we sometimes assume what other people think about us based not on facts but based on how we see ourselves, forgetting how G-d sees us.

We also are often guilty of letting our feelings rule instead of facts. We don’t take the time to really look at the facts and let them influence our decisions. Numbers 13:28 is an example of this. They said the cities are fortified and very large.  In Deut. 1:28 we read where the men further relate that the walls of the city go up to the sky. They were caught up with their own emotions. The facts were quite different. In Joshua we hear from Rahab that these same people, who the men reported back as giants, were actually terrified of the coming Israelites.

Finally, in Numbers 14:1-3 we read about the results of all these emotional responses. Here we read of the people blaming Moshe, Aaron and even G-d for their perceived plight. They are victims, powerless in the face of events, events that are mainly in their vivid imaginations and fears.  It is easy for us to fall into these same patterns of thinking. Sometimes these patterns can become very destructive in our lives. What is the solution? How do we change? How do we break these cycles? For these people G-d offered a trigger to help them remember who they were and who He is. In Numbers 15:39 we read about the fringes on a garment. As G-d’s people we all sometimes need a trigger or reminder to stop us when our imaginations are running wild, or when we find ourselves jumping to conclusions without having the facts. It might be a verse or it might be a spiritual experience that we can go back to and remember who we are and who G-d is. We are children of the King of Glory. G-d is with us. We can think on this when our emotions take over. We can come back to truth and let faith banish fear.