Shlah: A Summary of the Parsha
Moses sends scouts to explore the Land of Israel; ten of them convince the people that it will be too difficult to conquer the land; God responds to their lack of confidence by punishing them with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!
After the Levites are appointed caretakers of the Dwelling Place for God and the Sanctuary is anointed, God says to Moses, "Send out men to explore the land of Canaan which I am giving to the sons of Israel."
Each of the tribes of Israel sent a leader for the exploration. Moses said to these explorers, "See if the land is good or bad, fertile or lean. Are the people strong or weak, few or numerous? Are the cities opened or fortified?"
Since it was the time for grapes to be in season, the explorers went as far as the Valley of the Grapes. They cut down a cluster of grapes and gathered pomegranates and figs. They returned from spying at the end of 40 days. They showed Moshe and Aaron and the entire community the fruit of the land and said, "We came into the land and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey. But the people that dwell in the land are too strong, and the cities are greatly fortified."
Caleb spoke up to silence the people, "We can go in and take possession of the land. We are able to do it." But the men who had gone with him did not agree and retorted, "We cannot go against these people. They are giants and we are but grasshoppers."
The entire community raised its voice and the people wept throughout the night. They railed against Moses and Aaron. "We would rather have died in Egypt than to have come here to this land to be fallen by a sword. Let us go back to Egypt."
Moses and Aaron fell upon their faces before the whole assembly of the community of the sons of Israel. Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Yefunneh, both spies sent into the land, tore their garment in mourning and then said to everyone, "The land we explored was good land, very good land. If God is pleased with us, God shall bring us into this land and give it to us, a land truly flowing with milk and honey. We must not rebel against God. These people of the land are not to be feared, for they are our bread. Their protection has parted from them, for God is with us. We need not fear them."
But the entire community said to pelt them with stones until the glory of God appeared to all the Children of Israel in the Tent of Appointed Meeting. God said to Moses, "How long will these people provoke Me? How long will they put no faith in Me despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with the plague and annihilate them."
Moses said to God, "The people of this land will hear that you are the God who brought us out of the land of Egypt and the God who steers the people with a cloud. What will they say if you kill us? Will they say that you were not powerful enough to bring the people into the Promised Land?