Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shlach) Six Hundred Thousand!

While our forefather Yaacov journeyed from the Land of Israel to Egypt to reunite with his son Yosef, G-d assured Yaacov that he wouldn’t be alone saying, “I will go down with you to Egypt and I will be with you when you leave.”

The Torah tells us that there were seventy souls in Yaacov’s household when he traveled to Egypt. However, when you count the names of Yaacov’s family listed in the Torah, you only come up with sixty-nine!

Based on the aforementioned verse, our Sages explain that G-d included Himself in Yaacov’s family and was together with them throughout the dark period of their servitude in Egypt. The Medrash explains a bit further: When the Jews left Egypt there were 599,999 males over the age of twenty years old. Yet our tradition tells us there were precisely 600,000.

Again, based on the aforementioned verse, G-d included Himself in the count of the Jewish people fulfilling his word that ‘I will be with you – when you leave.’

G-d guarantees us that He will be with us at all times; through the good, the difficult and the uncertain. We can always lean and rely upon Him. Since we have this intimate and close relationship with G-d, one may think that we have it made; we have nothing to worry about – for He is with us!

However, in this week’s Parsha the Torah relates that the 12 leaders of the tribes were sent to spy on the Land of Israel before the Jews entered the Land.

We may ask; why was it necessary for the spies to be dispatched? After all, G-d had promised our forefathers and Moshe and the Jewish people that He would take them into the Land of Israel?

The answer is, human nature got in the way. They thought that once they entered into the land, G-d’s miraculous protection would diminish and they would have to fend for themselves. They forgot that G-d is part of the nation of Israel, and felt that spying on the land was the way to go.

Our leader Moshe was opposed to sending spies and discussed the proposal of sending spies with G-d. G-d told him it was up to Moshe to decide whether to send them. With a heavy heart, Moshe sent the 12 spies and detailed their specific mission.

After 40 days, the spies returned from their mission. Strangely, without reporting directly to Moshe, the spies gathered the nation together to give an account of their findings.

Initially they spoke positively about the land; then they started to scare the people telling them about giants who inhabited the land, about the enormous fruit and the powerful and fortified cities. This led people to become nervous and anxious.

Yehoshua and Calaiv, two spies who were positive about the mission, tried to do some damage control, but it was too late, hysteria had already set in.

The Torah tells us that G-d was extremely upset and it was only through Moshe’s defense that the nation’s sentence was reduced to having them tarry in the desert for forty years.

The question raised is what triggered the 10 spies, who were great spiritual leaders, to turn against G-d’s plan?

As mentioned previously, the Jews knew that things would change once they got into Israel. The miraculous Manna from Heaven would cease and the cloud that afforded them protection would no longer accompany them. The spies, who were the leaders and princes of the tribes, thought that their prestigious positions would be eliminated once they entered Israel.

Concerned they would lose their personal rank, their mission became obscured. Whatever G-d did to help their mission go smoothly, they interpreted negatively. Therefore when they returned they went directly to the people rather than to Moshe, in order to instill the nation with fright and panic which would not allow them to think rationally or wisely.

Think about it! Ten individuals were able to change the mindset of 600,000 people through their cunning negativity and pessimism! If each of us, in an optimistic and pleasant manner would promote G-d, Torah, Judaism, our leaders, and our brethren, imagine the colossal positive impact it would have. This would surely allow G-d to herald our much awaited redemption!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and enjoyable Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family