Parsha Sh’lach: Trust but Verify?

reconnoiter-60779_640This week we read Sh’lach (ShlachShelachSh’lahShlach Lecha, or Sh’lah L’kha) which means “send”, “send to you”, or “send for yourself”.  Parsha Sh’lach consists of Numbers 13:1–15:41.  You can read a very brief summary here.


Numbers 13 (NIV)

1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

3So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.

There is a big question here… Why?  Why are they sending scouts to a land that God has already promised will be theirs regardless of what they find?   Doesn’t God already know what is there anyway?

Well thanks to my studies via Dennis Prager what Jacob Milgrom said about those questions: “according to the tradition recorded in Deuteronomy the initiative to scout the Jewish land stemmed  from the people, and not from God.”   So later when we read Moses’ accounts (Deuteronomy) we learn that the people wanted to scout the land and here we read that God allows it.

As Prager says, “It’s like God is making a joke”… (paraphrasing) “God says, ‘Sure – whatever, go scout the land I am giving you anyway”… And the people should have caught the absurdity in their request.

Milgrom further the argument by stating that since the initiative was from the people and not God, then they would suffer the consequences for their breach of faith.  Milgrom concludes, “Hence, since Moses approved the expedition he was condemned to die in the desert.”  Which is an interesting assertion.

While we know Moses sinned at the rock from which he was to provide water for the people. (By the way his sin was in the language Moses used when speaking to the people, namely -“We (Moses and Aaron) will get the water” which usurps God’s role. ) Here to we find an instance where Moses again subtly usurps God’s omniscience and omnipotence, by condoning the doubt filled request by the Israelite skeptics.  Whereby dooming his eligibility to enter the promised land.

Lastly, I want to clarify the first two words in verse 2, which are also the parsha’s name: sh’lech lecha.

שלח־לך אנשים ויתרו את־ארץ כנען אשר־אני נתן לבני ישראל איש אחד איש אחד למטה אבתיו תשלחו כל נשיא בהם׃

“Sh’lech lecha”, like “lech lecha” which was said between God and Abraham, means to “send for yourself”.  When God says to Abraham to leave his home and father and all young Avraham knew… God told go or “send for yourself” – That is to say, “leave for your own good”.  When God says to do something for “yourself” he means your ‘self’.  Whatever He asks of you will be good for you if you comply and follow through with faith.  The Israelites did not pick up on this, and instead decided to see themselves as victims and inferior to another of God’s creatures which happened to inhabit the land God promised them.  Thus the wilderness bound Israelites acted antithetical to the conditions upon which God allowed them explore, an they showed their undeserving natures in regards to receiving what the land which Lord had already promised for them.

So, if God tells you to “send” or “go” for “yourself”, first make sure you are not crazy… second make sure you follow though with faith.  Trust, but verify? God allows verification… but we should not lose trust in Him and His ways.

Shabbat Shalom

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