Friday, June 04, 2010

Parshat Sh'lach Lecha - פרשת שלך לך

וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה, לָמָּה זֶּה אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת-פִּי יְהוָה; וְהִוא, לֹא תִצְלָח - And Moshe said: 'Why is it that you transgress the commandment of Hashem? It shall not succeed!
(במדבר י"ד:מ"א)

The verse above comes at the end of the story of the Meraglim, the "spies" who were sent to scout out the land of Israel prior to what was supposed to be Israel's entry. Unfortunately, the spies' report was highly critical and negative. Because the spies spoke badly about the land of Israel (or according to some explanations, because they saw bad in Israel,) the people of that generation were reprimanded and punished by being told that they wouldn't be given the merit to enter the land of Israel.

In an attempt to correct their earlier error, some of the Jews then declared that they would push forward into the land of Israel regardless. It is at this point that Moshe warns them, above. Immediately afterwards, we read of how this plan was doomed to fail with shocking consequences; those who went to enter the land were met by forces from the Amalek and Canaan armies, and were thoroughly annihilated.

I'd like to take a close look at the wording of the verse above. If we pay attention to Moshe's warning, he words his statement in an odd way; he doesn't say "you will not succeed," rather he phrases it as "it will not succeed." What is the it that he is referring to? The answer is actually fairly obvious, and the Ibn Ezra makes no time in explaining that "it" was the action of making aliyah, of going into Israel. "It" was the plan to do this, and this "it" would not succeed.

But we've only gone halfway to answering the question; now we know what the it was referring to, but we still don't know why Moshe referred to the plan as liable to fail rather than telling the people that they would fail. By changing the subject of his sentence, it seems unncessarily clunky. I'd like to tender an answer I thought of myself: Moshe refused to criticise the people. He saw that they had good intentions and wanted to correct their earlier error. He realised that there was no point in telling them off for their hearts were true, even if their actions were off. I am not yet a parent and am not really in a place to direct people how to raise their own children, but I've heard it said that one must never say "stupid boy" or "bad girl", but rather must explain to the child in question that their actions were bad or lacked being thought through. The child is almost always good, even if the action isn't. In a similar manner, Moshe make sure to tell the nation that their actions would not succeed.

I'd like to relate this to current affairs. Benjamin Netanyahu spoke earlier this week of the hypocrisy of the world's leaders. He was absolutely correct. He asked how they would have reacted when faced with terrorists and supporters of terrorists. The world leadership and media have been quick to condemn Israel and declare it an illegal, immoral and apartheid state. Not many have thought through their stance and declared that they would like to have seen things done differently, and then explained how a better plan should have been formed. Israel is surrounded by shocking hypocrisy. But it remains up to us to ignore such inane criticism and try to conduct ourselves to the highest moral standard possible.

This week's Dvar Torah is dedicated to the soldiers injured in the operation against the flotilla terrorists*. May they heal quickly and may they not be discouraged from their holy cause of protecting the people of Israel.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!

*They were injured by gunshot wounds, stabbings and being beaten. I think I can safely call these people terrorists.

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