"שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען אשר אני נתן לבני ישראל"
“Send forth men, if you please, and let them spy out the Land of Canaan that I am giving to the Children of Israel.” (13:2)

QUESTION: Why is it necessary to mention the name of the land and the fact that Hashem is giving it to the Jewish people?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 91a) relates that the people of Canaan once took the Jewish people to court before Alexander the Great. They demanded that Eretz Yisrael be returned to them because it was originally owned by their ancestor Canaan. Gevihah ben Pesisa argued that Canaan was the son of Cham and was cursed by Noach to be a servant to his brothers, Shem and Yafet. According to halachah (Pesachim 88b), whatever a slave acquires belongs to his master. Thus, the Canaanites had absolutely no claim to the land, and through their ancestor Shem, the Jews were the rightful owners. The plaintiffs were dumbfounded and ran away leaving their fields and vineyards to the Jewish people.

In the beginning of Bereishit, Rashi explains that Torah starts with the narrative of creation because if the world accuses the Jews of illegally taking away Eretz Yisrael, they can respond, “Hashem created the entire world and it belongs to Him. With His will He took it away from them and gave it to us.”

In preparation for the Jewish people’s first encounter with Eretz Yisrael, Hashem emphasized: “This is the land of Canaan, which according to halachah belongs to the Jewish people since its original owner Cham became a slave to your ancestor Shem. Moreover, it is the land that ‘I am giving to the Children of Israel’ and as Master of the world I have the right to take it from whomever I want and give it to whomever I wish.”

(בית יעקב, מסולתן)


"איש אחד למטה אבתיו תשלחו כל נשיא בהם...ראשי בני ישראל המה"

“One man each from his father’s tribe shall you send, every one a leader among them...heads of the Children of Israel were they.” (13:2-3)

QUESTION: In each of the three preceding parshiot there is a listing of the leaders of tribes, with the same people mentioned each time. Why, in this parshah, is an entirely new slate of leaders, mentioned?

ANSWER: These people were not the actual nesi’im — leaders of the tribes. Spying out the land was a difficult and dangerous undertaking requiring much skill and courage. Therefore Hashem instructed Moshe to seek volunteers for the mission and from among these he was to select the ones he deemed most suitable. The spies, then, were the select of the volunteers.

The word nasi (נשיא) derives from the root word “nasa” (נשא), which means “raised” or “elevated.” Thus, the phrase “kol nasi bahem” means that the heart of each one elevated him to volunteer to participate in the expedition.

(רשב"ם)

Alternatively, the words “kol nasi bahem” do not mean that these people were the nesi’im; it means only that each nasi was to select a representative from his tribe as its emissary to explore the land.

(חזקוני)

Alternatively, the word “heimah” — “[were] they” — is superfluous. Yitro advised Moshe to divide the Jews into groups and appoint leaders over groups of 1000, groups of 100, and groups of 50. The word “heimah” (המה) has the numerical value of 50. These spies were from among the leaders of the groups of 50.

(בעל הטורים)


"כלם אנשים ראשי בני ישראל המה"
“They were all distinguished men; heads of the Children of Israel were they.” (13:3)

QUESTION: Rashi says, “ve’otah sha’ah kesheirim hayu” — “At that hour they were honorable and righteous.”

Why does Rashi say “at that hour” and not just “at that time?”

ANSWER: The spies toured Eretz Yisrael for 40 days and brought back a negative report which caused intense hysteria. For this sin, the people were punished to wander in the wilderness for 40 years — one year per day.

A day consists of 24 hours, and in 40 days there is a total of 960 hours. In a year there are 12 months, and thus, in 40 years there are 480 months. Hence, for each hour of the spies’ tour, the stay of the Jews in the wilderness was increased by half of a month. The Jews left Egypt on the 15th of Nissan and arrived in Israel 40 years later on the 10th of Nissan (Joshua 4:19). The normal travel time from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael should have taken 11 days (Devarim 1:2). Consequently, the 40-year punishment was in reality short 15 days.

Hence, Rashi is puzzled about the missing 15 days, and proposes the answer that “ve’otah sha’ah — “for that hour” — “they were kesheirim” — “honorable” — and therefore the community at large was spared 15 days of wandering in the wilderness.

(מטעמי יצחק)


"למטה אפרים הושע בן נון...למטה יוסף למטה מנשה גדי בן סוסי"
“For the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun...For the tribe of Yosef, for the tribe of Menasheh, Gaddi son of Susi.” (13:8,11)

QUESTION: Why is Yosef mentioned with Menasheh and not with Ephraim?

ANSWER: After Yosef was sold to Egypt, he was appointed viceroy and rose to glory. A famine broke out, and from all surrounding countries people came to purchase food in Egypt. When the ten sons of Yaakov appeared before Yosef, and he leveled the accusation Meraglim atem” — “You are spies” — they responded, “We have never been spies” (Bereishit 42:31).

According to the Arizal, the neshamot of the ten sons of Yaakov were impregnated into the ten people chosen by Moshe to tour Eretz Yisrael and remained in them until they decided to slander the land. Thus, when Yosef accused them of being spies he was not talking about the present, but actually referring to the future. Not understanding the profundity of his words, they thought he was talking about the past or present and therefore responded “We have never been spies.”

Among the ten brothers who stood before Yosef was Yehudah, the ancestor of Kaleiv, who did not participate in the maligning of Eretz Yisrael. Since Yosef accused them all as spies although one was actually innocent, he in turn was punished that one of his children would be a collaborator with the spies.

When Yosef held his conversation with his brothers he spoke Egyptian while his son Menasheh interpreted (Bereishit 42:23 Rashi). Consequently, Menasheh also said to the brothers, “You are spies.” Therefore, the Torah emphasized that Gaddi son of Susi represented both Yosef and Menasheh, because both of them unjustly accused Yehudah.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי מהדו"ת כפלים לתושיה, ועי' נחל קדומים להחיד"א)


"אלה שמות האנשים...ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע"
“These are the names of the men...Moshe called Hoshea son of Nun ‘Yehoshua.’ ” (13:16)

QUESTION: The word “ben” (בן) — “son” — is always written with a segol (ֶ). Why is “Yehoshua bin Nun” written with a chirik (.)?

ANSWER: According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 2:6), when Hashem took away the "י" from “Sarai” (שרי) and changed her name to Sarah (שרה), the "י" complained to Hashem: “Why was I removed from the name of a righteous woman?” Hashem comforted the "י" by telling her, “Until now you were at the end of a woman’s name; in the future I shall place you at the beginning of a man’s name.” Thus, Hashem took the "י" and added it to the name of Hoshea (הושע), making it Yehoshua (יהושע).

However, in the name “Sarai" there were no vowels under the "י" and in the name “Yehoshua” there is a sh’va (:) under the "י". From where did the vowel come? The word ben (בן) — son of, usually has the vowel segol (ֶ). Hashem took away two dots and created a sh’va (:) under the "י" in the name “Yehoshua” and since then, in Yehoshua’s name, the word “ben” has been spelled with a chirik, one dot.

(חתם סופר)

Alternatively, the word “bin” is etymologically related to the word binah — knowledge and understanding. Yehoshua was Moshe’s outstanding student, and thanks to his exceptional knowledge and understanding of Torah, he became his successor. The words “Bin-nun” can be combined into one word, “binun” (בינון): Yehoshua was a “binun” — a knowledgeable and understanding person.

(רמב"ן, שמות ל"ג, י"א)


"ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע"
“Moshe called Hoshea son of Nun, ‘Yehoshua.’” (13:16)

QUESTION: Rashi says that he prayed "י-ה יושיעך מעצת מרגלים" — “May G‑d save you from the plan of the spies.” Now Hashem’s holy name consists of four letters: Why did Moshe only mention the first two?

ANSWER: Hashem said to Moshe, “Write it as a remembrance and read it to Yehoshua that I will surely erase the memory of Amalek.” Moshe said, "כי יד על כס י-ה" — “For the hand is on the throne of G‑d, [He swore that] G‑d maintains a war against Amalek from generation to generation” (Shemot 17:14,16).

The use of only two letters of the Divine name instead of all four and the missing "א" in the word “keis” (throne) indicate that Hashem’s name and throne are incomplete as long as Amalek is not eradicated (Rashi, ibid.).

This commandment was directed to Yehoshua since he would lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael, and obliteration of the memory of Amalek would be one of the first mitzvot (See Rambam, Melachim 1:1).

The Midrash says that ultimately Amalek’s downfall will be through a descendant of Yosef (see Bereishit 37:1 Rashi). Since Yehoshua was of the tribe of Ephraim the son of Yosef, Moshe prayed for him that the merit of "י-ה", the Name of Hashem which was waiting to be completed through him, would protect him from the influence of the spies. Thus, he would come to Eretz Yisrael, destroy Amalek, and return His name and throne to their full glory.

(מרגניתא טבא)


"ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע"
“Moshe called Hoshea son of Nun ‘Yehoshua.’ ” (13:16)

QUESTION: Rashi comments that Moshe prayed that G‑d protect Yehoshua from the plan of the spies.

Why did Moshe single out Yehoshua?

ANSWER: Eldad and Meidad prophesied that Moshe would pass away and Yehoshua would bring the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael (see Rashi 11:28). Yehoshua was extremely devoted to his beloved Rebbe Moshe and an exceptionally humble person (see Targum Yonatan ben Uziel 13:16).

Moshe feared that Yehoshua would join the spies and thus delay the entry into Eretz Yisrael in order to cause Moshe his Rebbe to live longer and to humbly avoid becoming the leader himself.

(קהלת יצחק)


"ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע"
“Moshe called Hoshea son of Nun, ‘Yehoshua.’” (13:16)

QUESTION: The Targum Yonatan ben Uziel writes, “When Moshe saw Yehoshua’s humbleness, he changed his name from Hoshea to Yehoshua.” Why did Yehoshua’s humbleness merit him an additional"י"?

ANSWER: The entire Torah consists of Hashem’s words, which He instructed Moshe to write down. When Hashem told Moshe to write, “Now the man Moshe was extremely humble,” (12:3) he was reluctant to write praise about himself. Therefore, in order to obey Hashem’s instructions and at the same time not to praise himself highly, he omitted the "י" in the word “anav” (ענו), leaving the letter "י" hovering.

When Moshe observed the humility of his disciple Hoshea, he added the "י", which was originally to be written regarding his own humility, to Yehoshua’s name.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי)

* * *

The reason Moshe omitted the letter "י" particularly is that it is the smallest letter of the alef-beit and thus an allusion to the concept of humility.

(אותיות דר' עקיבא)

* * *

Regarding Moshe, the Torah says “Ki karan or panav” — “The skin of his face had become radiant” (Shemot 34:29). According to the Midrash Rabbah (47:6), there was leftover ink in Moshe’s quill after he wrote the Torah, and he rubbed it on his head making his face shine.

Did Hashem miscalculate and give Moshe extra ink?

According to the opinion (see Sanhedrin 107a) that the source of the "י" for Yehoshua was from the "י" which was originally in the name of Sarai, the extra ink Moshe rubbed on his head was from the "י" which he did not want to write in the word “anav.”

(אור החיים, שמות סוף פ' תשא)


"ומה הארץ...היש בה עץ אם אין"
“And how is the land...are there trees in it or not?” (13:20)

QUESTION: Rashi comments that Moshe instructed the spies to see if there were any righteous people there whose merit would protect the dwellers of the land.

If Moshe was looking for righteous people, why didn’t he instruct the spies to search the synagogues, rather than asking them to search the fields?

ANSWER: Moshe was incidentally conveying a message to K’lal Yisrael concerning the intrinsic qualities of a truly righteous person. He is not one who goes into seclusion and locks himself up in the synagogue or Beit Hamidrash. A truly righteous person is compared to a tree; He is out among the people producing fruit (good deeds).

Similar to the tree which casts a protective shade on its surroundings, the righteous person should endeavor that his influence be felt throughout his entire city.

(עיטורי תורה)


"ויכרתו משם זמורה ואשכול ענבים אחד וישאהו במוט בשנים ומן הרמנים ומן התאנים"
“And they cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes, and bore it on a double pole, and of the pomegranates and of the figs.” (13:23)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that of the twelve spies, eight carried the cluster of grapes on a bed of poles, one carried a huge fig, and another carried a huge pomegranate. Yehoshua and Kaleiv did not bring any of the fruits because they knew that the spies intended to show that the land was abnormal and dangerous and they did not want to participate in this plan to promote fear and apprehension.

Why did Yehoshua and Kaleiv not follow the instructions of Moshe, “vehitchazaktem u’lekachtem miperi ha’aretz” — “you shall strengthen yourselves and take from the fruit of the land” (13:20)?

ANSWER: If Moshe’s intention was that they bring back a sample of the fruits, the word “vehitchazaktem” — “you shall strengthen yourselves” — is superfluous. It could have just said “ulekachtem” — “and you shall take [from the fruit of the land]”? Therefore the Targum Yonatan ben Uziel explains that the word “vehitchazaktem” (והתחזקתם) does not mean “strengthen yourself” but derives from the root word chazakah (חזקה) — an act of acquiring ownership.

According to halachah, when one buys a field, a way to legally acquire it is through chazakah, and according to the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 192:11) gathering the fruits of the land is a properchazakah. Thus, Moshe’s intention was “vehitchazaktem” — “you shall make a chazakah” — acquire the land and become its owner through taking for yourselves from the fruit of the land.

The spies, however, exceeded their authority, and in addition to taking fruit for themselves, they also brought back a sample, hoping to use it to discourage the people from wanting to go to Eretz Yisrael. Yehoshua and Kaleiv did take fruit for themselves as they were instructed, but refused to participate in the evil plan of the spies.

(גרש כרמל)

* * *

It is interesting to note that when Moshe rebuked the people for the incident of the spies he said, “You all approached me and said, ‘Let us send men ahead of us veyachperu lanu et ha’aretz — and let them spy out the land for us’ ” (Devarim 1:22). The word “veyachperu” (ויחפרו) is a new term which is not mentioned in our parshah, which uses the term “yaturu.”

What is the significance of this term?

In actuality the Rambam and the Ra’avad differ over whether gathering fruit is sufficient to be considered a chazakah (Mechirah 1:16). The Rambam holds that it suffices while the Ra’avad disagrees. The word “veyachperu” is related to “chafirah” (חפירה) which means “digging,” a form of chazakah which acquires land according to all opinions.

In light of the above, it can be explained that Moshe affirmed the opinion of the Rambam, and therefore told the people that in order to perform a chazakah they should gather the fruit. The Jewish people however declared “veyachperu” — “and let them dig in the land” — which according to all opinions is a proper form of chazakah.

(גרש כרמל)


"ויכרתו משם זמורה ואשכול ענבים...ומן הרמנים ומן התאנים"
“And they cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes...and of the pomegranates and of the figs.” (13:23)

QUESTION: The spies used the fruits of Israel to disgrace the land. How is this iniquity corrected?

ANSWER: According to the Arizal one purpose of the mitzvah of bikkurim — bringing to the Beit Hamikdash the first fruits of the seven species, by which Eretz Yisrael is praised — is to rectify the sin of the spies. The spies despised Eretz Yisrael and spoke against its fruit while the Jewish people, by bringing bikkurim, demonstrate their love for the land and its fruit.

* * *

The Mishnah (Bikkurim 3:1) says: “How does a person set aside bikkurim? He enters into his field and notices a newly-ripened fig, a newly ripened grape cluster, and a newly ripened pomegranate. He ties a blade of grass around each one and declares, ‘This is for bikkurim.’ ”

Though the mitzvah of bikkurim applies to all the seven fruits with which Eretz Yisrael is praised (Devarim 26:2, Rashi), the Mishnah mentions only these three to signify the particular connection between them and the spies: that by bringing them as bikkurim one rectifies the spies’ crime against them.

(ר' מנחם זמבא הי"ד)

When one who brought bikkurim concluded his recitation, a Heavenly voice proclaimed, “You have brought bikkurim today; may you merit to do so again next year” (Devarim 26:16, Rashi). Thus, the mitzvah of bikkurim is a means to receive a Heavenly blessing for longevity.

The spies, through their evil tongues shortened the lives of the people in the wilderness (14:29). Consequently, it is most fitting that the mitzvah of bikkurim, which rectifies their iniquity, should earn longevity for those who observe it.

(פרדס יוסף החדש)


"ויבאו עד נחל אשכל...למקום ההוא קרא נחל אשכול על אדות האשכול אשר כרתו משם בני ישראל"
“They arrived at the Valley of Eshcol...That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster that the Children of Israel cut from there.” (13:23-24)

QUESTION: Why in the first pasuk is “Eshcol” spelled without a "ו", and in the second pasuk with a "ו"?

ANSWER: An added "ו" changes from singular to plural. This can be seen from the teaching of the sages (Sukkah 6b) that a Sukkah should have four walls, based on the Torah’s spelling the word “basukkot” twice without a "ו" (בסכת) and once with a "ו" (בסכות).

Originally, the valley was called Eshcol without a "ו" because it was named after Eshcol, the confidant of Avraham (Yalkut Shimoni 743), and his name is spelled in the Torah without a "ו" (see Bereishit 14:13). When they cut from there a vine with a cluster of grapes, which in Hebrew is also called “Eshcol,” there was now an additional reason to call the valley “Eshcol.” Therefore, “The place was now called Eshcol” with a "ו" because of the two reasons — the person and the cluster of grapes.

(קול אליהו)


"וילכו ויבאו אל משה"
“They went and came to Moshe.” (13:26)

QUESTION: On these words Rashi comments that just as they came back to Moshe with bad advice, they left originally with bad intentions.

On an earlier pasuk (13:3), Rashi comments that at the time that the spies left for Eretz Yisrael they were all “kesheirim” — “honorable.” Why here does he comment that they left with evil intentions?

ANSWER: The spies actually left for Eretz Yisrael with evil thoughts; however, the Gemara (Kiddushin 39b) states that man is punished for evil thoughts only when they lead to evil actions. Therefore the spies were considered “kesheirim” because they did not actually do evil. However, when they returned and acted on their thoughts, Rashi comments that they were also evil when they left.

(ר' אברהם מרדכי זצ"ל מגור)


"ויספרו לו ויאמרו באנו אל הארץ..."
“They reported to him and said: ‘We arrived at the land...’” (13:27)

QUESTION: Since it says “vayesaperu” — “and they reported” — the word “vayomru” — “and they said” — is redundant. Moreover, why does it say “lo” — “to him” — and not “lahem” — “to them?”

ANSWER: Since Moshe was the one who initiated their mission to survey Eretz Yisrael, upon returning they reported first to him. They hoped to persuade him that it was not in the best interests of the Jewish people to go to Eretz Yisrael. Thus, he would cancel the plans and everyone would remain in the wilderness. Upon realizing that they had failed to impress Moshe, they decided to make a declaration to the entire community, hoping to incite them against Moshe and Eretz Yisrael.

The pasuk alludes to this by saying, “vayesapru lo — “they first reported to him” — i.e. to Moshe — and only afterwards “vayomru” — “they said” — i.e. they made a public declaration.

(שפתי צדיק)


"אפס כי עז העם הישב בארץ והערים בצרות גדלת מאד"
“But the people that dwells in the land is powerful; the cities are very greatly fortified.” (13:28)

QUESTION: Onkelos translates the word “betzurot” as “krichan,” which Rashi explains to mean “biraniot agulot” — “round castles.” What did the spies mean by emphasizing that the Canaanite homes were round?

ANSWER: When Hashem told Moshe and Aharon to convey to the Jewish people the laws of leprosy on houses, He was actually giving them good tidings. The Amorites knew that the Jews would ultimately conquer Eretz Yisrael and chase them out of the land; therefore, throughout the forty years that the Jews sojourned in the wilderness, they hid their valuables in the walls of their houses. When leprosy struck a house, the walls would need to be broken down and the hidden treasures would be revealed (see Vayikra 14:34, Rashi).

According to halachah (Tumat Tzara’at 14:6) the law of leprosy in a house only applies to a house which has walls that meet at the corners. Consequently, the spies,who attempted to discourage the Jewish people from going Eretz Yisrael, were saying, “If your reason for going is the hope of finding treasures, you will be disappointed because their houses are round.”

(זכרון ישראל - הלולא דפסחא)


"עמלק יושב בארץ הנגב והחתי והיבוסי והאמרי יושב בהר והכנעני יושב על הים ועל יד הירדן"
“Amalek dwells in the area of the South; the Hitites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountain; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and on the bank of the Jordan. (13:29)

QUESTION: Why did the spies tell the people where the different nations were located?

ANSWER: Among all the nations living in Eretz Yisrael the Jews only knew Amalek. He was their arch enemy who ruthlessly attacked them when they left the land of Egypt, and they feared his strength.

In Eretz Yisrael, the South was the most inferior part (13:17, Rashi). Had Amalek been the most powerful of the nations, he undoubtedly would have conquered them and taken a better part of the land for himself. Obviously, he was the weakest and had to settle, therefore, for living in the worst part of the country.

In order to instill fear in the hearts and minds of the people, the spies told them where Amalek and all the nations were located; thus, they could conclude for themselves how much mightier the others were than Amalek — and since they feared Amalek, they would fear the others even more.

(כתב סופר)


"ויהס כלב את העם אל משה ויאמר עלה נעלה וירשנו אתה"
“Kaleiv silenced the people toward Moshe and said, ‘We shall surely ascend and conquer it.’” (13:30)

QUESTION: Why didn’t Yehoshua join Kaleiv in this proclamation?

ANSWER: Yehoshua heard Eldad and Meidad’s prophesy that Moshe would die and Yehoshua would bring the people of Israel into the land (see 11:28 Rashi). Therefore, he was reluctant to speak in favor of going to Eretz Yisrael, lest he be accused of personal interest, namely, wanting to become the leader as quickly as possible. Hence, he remained silent while Kaleiv rallied the people in support of Moshe.

(כתב סופר)


"ארץ אכלת יושביה"
“A land that devours its inhabitants.” (13:32)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that the spies reported that wherever they went they saw the Canaanites burying their dead.

Why did so many Canaanites die when the spies toured Eretz Yisrael?

ANSWER: The Canaanites of those days had a very strange custom: When an ordinary person died, they would store his body and delay the burial until a prominent person died. They believed that since the prominent person was definitely going to “heaven,” he would take along all those who were buried at the same time.

For a long time they were storing their dead, until finally the famous and righteous Iyov passed away (see Rashi 14:9). The day Iyov was buried people were busy throughout the entire land burying all the deceased who had been in storage.

The spies, unaware of this custom, were astounded by the large number of funerals they encountered wherever they visited. Since so many people were being buried, they concluded that something was wrong with the land.

(שפתי כהן)


"ויציאו דבת הארץ אשר תרו אתה אל בני ישראל לאמר..."
“They brought forth to the Children of Israel an evil report on the land that they had spied out, saying...” (13:32)

QUESTION: When Moshe sent spies to Canaan they were all kesheirim — honorable and righteous (see Rashi 13:3). Why didn’t they want the Jewish people to enter the land?

ANSWER: In the wilderness the Jews had no association with material and earthly matters. They ate manna from heaven, water was provided from Miriam’s well, and the Clouds of Glory cleaned and ironed their clothing. Upon entering the land of Israel, all this would change. The Jews would have to be involved in the daily activities of plowing and planting the fields, etc.

The spies, therefore, considered it better to remain in the wilderness and be totally immersed in Torah study and spiritual matters than to enter the land of Israel, where they would have to pursue mundane affairs.

(לקוטי תורה)


"ויציאו דבת הארץ אשר תרו אתה אל בני ישראל לאמר..."
“They brought forth to the Children of Israel an evil report on the land that they had spied out, saying...” (13:32)

QUESTION: When Moshe sent the spies to Canaan, he told them to bring back a report about the land, the people, and the fruit. This is exactly what they did. What crime did they commit?

ANSWER: The spies were sent only to spy out and report back; however, they went a step further. In addition to reporting about the land, its inhabitants, and its fruit, they also drew conclusions and shared them with the people at large. It was not for them to decide that, “We cannot go forward against that people, for they are too strong for us.”

No one asked the spies to tell how they felt in relation to the giants. Though they heard the giants talking about them and comparing them to ants, they did not have to tell the people, “We were like grasshoppers in our eyes” (14:1).

For these conclusions, which had a chilling effect on the entire community and which incited them to rebel and not want to enter Eretz Yisrael, they indeed deserved to be punished.


"ויהושע בן נון וכלב בן יפנה...קרעו בגדיהם"
“Yehoshua son of Nun and Kaleiv son of Yefuneh...tore their garments.” (14:6)

QUESTION: Yehoshua and Kaleiv directly announced their opposition to the spies. Why did they also tear their garments?

ANSWER: The outer appearance of a person is the first thing the eye perceives. For instance, a beard and peiyot are the outer signs of a devout person. Unfortunately, sometimes it is only a facade and the person is not really what he appears to be. Likewise, clothing can be a cover-up to disguise a bodily deformity.

The ten spies pretended to be observant and G‑d fearing Jews. However, inwardly they were debased and corrupt. Yehoshua and Kaleiv tore off “their (the spies’) clothing (facade)” and exposed their true identity to the entire community.

(הדרש והעיון)


"ואתם אל תיראו את עם הארץ כי לחמנו הם סר צלם מעליהם"
“You should not fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them.” (14:9)

QUESTION: What is the significance of the comparison to bread?

ANSWER: Bread is a staple which sustains life. If, G‑d forbid, a person lacks bread, he will do everything possible, including even the seemingly impossible, to obtain it.

With the words, “they are our bread” Yehoshua and Kaleiv were declaring to the people that Eretz Yisrael was as important to the Jewish people as bread to a living man. Consequently, they had to be ready for anything, even mesirat nefesh — the profoundest self sacrifice — in order to acquire it.

(ר' שלום מרדכי הכהן ז"ל מברעזאן)


"ואתם אל תיראו את עם הארץ כי לחמנו הם סר צלם מעליהם"
“You should not fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them.” (14:9)

QUESTION: If Yehoshua and Kaleiv wanted to compare the Canaanites to bread why the emphasis on “lachmeinu”“our bread”?

ANSWER: Throughout the sojourn of the Jewish people in the wilderness, they were sustained through the manna which Moshe described to the Jews as “the bread which Hashem has given you to eat” (Shemot 16:16). They gathered it morning by morning, and when the sun grew hot it melted (16:21).

The spies instilled a fear in the Jewish people about the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael. Yehoshua and Kaleiv dispelled this by telling them they are like “our bread” — the manna. It is only solid as long as it is in the shade, but once exposed to the heat, it melts. Similarly, their shade — i.e. protection — had departed from them and it would be extremely easy to conquer the Canaanites, because, like “our bread,” they would melt in the Jews’ presence.

(אלשיך, כלי יקר)


"פקד עון אבות על בנים"
“Recalling the iniquity of parents upon children.” (14:18)

QUESTION: Even if the pasuk is referring to those children who continue in the bad ways of their parents (see Berachot 7a), why should children be punished for their parents’ sins?

ANSWER: This can be explained with the following parable: A ravenous wolf wanted to devour a fox, whereupon the sly fox said to him, “I am just skin and bones; there is a healthy man nearby of whom you can make a good meal.”

When the wolf replied that it is forbidden for animals to attack human beings (Bereishit 9:2), the fox told him that he had no cause to worry: since children pay for the crimes of their parents, his children would be punished, and not he.

The wolf then took off to attack the man, and on the way he fell into a trap, and his cries echoed throughout the forest. When the fox came to the “rescue,” the wolf cried out to him, “You liar, didn’t you tell me that I wouldn’t be punished for my sins?!”

The fox replied, “Fool that you are! You are not being punished for your own sins; you are being punished for the sins of your father who attacked people.”

The wolf bellowed, “Why should I suffer for the crimes of my father?”

The fox said, “Let your ears listen to what your mouth is saying. You yourself were willing to commit a crime, content that your children would suffer for it, so now it is fitting that you should suffer for your father’s sins.”

Hashem’s ways of retribution are middah keneged middah — measure for measure. When children continue in the bad footsteps of their parents, obviously they don’t care if their own children suffer for their wrongdoings. Therefore, it is appropriate that they suffer for iniquities committed by their fathers, who also did not care that ultimately their children would pay for it.

When one refrains from sinning because he does not want his children to be punished for his crimes, he too will not be punished for the iniquities perpetrated by his father.

(פרדס יוסף, שמות ל"ד, ז')


"במדבר הזה יתמו ושם ימותו"
“In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.” (14:35)

QUESTION: In theMishnah (Sanhedrin 10:3) Rabbi Akiva derives from this pasuk that the Generation of the Wilderness have no share in Olam Haba — the World to Come. In the same Mishnah, Rabbi Akiva also says that the Congregation of Korach is not destined to be resurrected, as is stated, “The earth covered over them” — in this world; “and they were lost from among the Congregation” — in the World to Come (16:33).

The two teachings seem redundant since the Congregation of Korach were also among the Generation of the Wilderness?

ANSWER: The emissaries Moshe sent to tour and spy out the land of Canaan were representatives from all the tribes who were destined to receive a share of the land. Thus, the tribe of Levi did not send a representative. Upon their return, the spies incited their respective tribes against going to Eretz Yisrael, and all the people were thus punished to perish in the wilderness. Since the tribe of Levi had no representative, they were not involved in the dispute, and were among those entitled to enter Eretz Yisrael (seeMidrash Rabbah 1:11).

Consequently, since Korach was a Levite, he and all his Levitecolleagues who joined him would have survived the Generation of the Wilderness and received Olam Haba. However, due to their link with Korach’s rebellion, they now also lost their share in the World to Come.

(ויקהל משה בשם דגל מחנה אפרים בהיותו ילד)

Alternatively, there is a question whether the affair of the spies preceded or followed the Korach rebellion.

In Bamidbar (16:4), Rashi writes that when Korach’s rebellion took place, Moshe felt powerless to appeal to Hashem to forgive the people because it was already the fourth time they had defied Him. The first was the incident of the golden calf, then that of the “mit’onenim” — “those who complained” (11:1) — afterwards the incident of the spies, and now the Korach rebellion.

However, in Devarim (1:1) when Moshe rebuked the Jews, Rashi explains “Paran” to refer to the spies who were sent from the Wilderness of Paran (12:16), and “Chatzeirot” to refer to the Korach rebellion. Since the Torah says, “The people journeyed from Chatzeirot and encamped in the Wilderness of Paran,” (12:16) it appears that Rashi now follows the opinion that Korach’s rebellion (Chatzeirot) preceded the spies (Paran).

According to the latter view, it is understood why Rabbi Akiva says that both groups lost their share in the world to come, because the Korach group lost theirs prior to the spy incident.

Rabbi Akiva in the Mishnah speaks first of the Generation of the Wilderness and then of the Korach group, though the chronology is the reverse, because in the Torah, Parshat Shelach,which is about the spies, is before Parshat Korach.

(עי' פרח לבנון על פרקי אבות ע' קי"ח)


"כי תבאו אל ארץ מושבתיכם אשר אני נתן לכם...ויין לנסך רביעית ההין"
“When you will come to the land of your dwelling places that I give you...and a quarter-hin of wine for a libation.” (15:2,5)

QUESTION: Why does the Biblical discussion of wine libations follow the narrative of the episode of the spies?

ANSWER: The spies brought back a fig, a pomegranate, and a cluster of grapes from Eretz Yisrael. These fruits were so unusually large that one man had to carry the fig, another the pomegranate, and eight others carried the grapes. They told the Jews that just as the fruit of the land was unusual, so were the inhabitants, and they thereby discouraged the Jews from wanting to go to Eretz Yisrael.

Since the majority of the spies used grapes to malign Eretz Yisrael, Hashem commanded the Jewish people that when they would enter Eretz Yisrael and offer sacrifices, they were to include a wine libation in order to atone for the sin which was committed by their ancestors through the grapes of Eretz Yisrael.

(נחל קדומים)


"ראשית ערסתכם חלה תרימו תרומה ... מראשית ערסתיכם תתנו לה' תרומה לדרתיכם"
“The first of your dough you shall set aside challah — a loaf as a portion ... from the first of your kneading shall you give a portion to G‑d, for your generations.” (15:20-21)

QUESTION: If “arisoteichem” means “your dough,” it should have said “batzeikechem” (see Shemot 12:34), and if it means your kneading, it should have said “lishatechem” (see Bereishit 18:6)?

ANSWER: In Hebrew a bed (cradle) is called an “arisah.” Thus, the word “arisoteichem” can also mean “your beds.” The Torah is teaching that “meireishit arisoteichem” — as soon as a person rises from his bed — he should give an offering to Hashem.

The offering we give Hashem is our reciting of Modeh ani,” (in which we thank Him for restoring to us our soul, the essence of our life source) and making davening and Torah study the first activity of our day.

(ספר המאמרים - קונטרסים, דף קס"ה ע"א)

Additionally, while a child is very young and still in the “arisah” — “cradle” — his parents should endeavor to inculcate him with a love for Torah and G‑dliness by exposing the child to Torah-oriented songs, toys, games and room decorations.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר)

* * *

The word “challah” (חלה) is an acronym for the early connections that parents make between a child and Hashem.

The "ח", which has the numerical value of eight, is the brit milah — circumcision — which takes place when the child is eight days old.

The "ל", which has the numerical value of thirty, is for the pidyon haben — the redemption of a firstborn son — after he is thirty days old.

The "ה", which adds up to five, is for the ruling of the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (5:22), “At five years of age the study of Scriptures should be commenced.”

(מעינה של תורה)


"והיה אם מעיני העדה נעשתה לשגגה ועשו כל העדה פר בן בקר אחד לעלה...ושעיר עזים אחד לחטת"
“If because of the eyes [leadership] of the assembly it was done unintentionally, the entire assembly shall prepare one young bull as an elevation-offering...and one he-goat as a sin-offering.” (15:24)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the word “lechatat” — “for a sin-offering” — is spelled without an "א" to teach that while normally a chatat — sin-offering — is brought on the altar before the olah — burnt-offering — that comes along with it, here it follows after the sin-offering.

Why is this case an exception to the rule?

ANSWER: A burnt-offering gains forgiveness for evil thoughts and a sin-offering is for an actual deed (Midrash Rabbah Vayikra 7:3). Since a person usually considers an action in his mind before performing it, shouldn’t the burnt-offering precede the sin offering?

Hashem punishes one for evil thoughts only when they are acted upon, but if a person plans to sin, and due to unforeseen circumstances does not have the opportunity, he is not punished. An exception to this is idolatry: Then the thought itself is the main sin, and when one transgresses and worships, his major need for forgiveness is for the premeditation, as Hashem stated, “In order to seize the House of Israel for what is in their heart, because they are all estranged from Me through their idols (Ezekiel 14:5) (seeKiddushin 40a).

Consequently, for all transgressions the sin-offering precedes the burnt-offering because it atones for the action, the major part of the transgression. However, in the case of idolatry, thinking that Hashem is not Omnipotent, and considering detaching oneself from Him, is the primary iniquity, and therefore the sin-offering (which is for the thought), is offered first.

(כלי יקר)

* * *

Alternatively, unlike the burnt-offering which is consumed entirely on the altar, only parts of a sin-offering are burnt on the altar while the rest is eaten by the Kohanim. In a burnt-offering, the altar’s consumption is the source of forgiveness. However, the Gemara (Pesachim 59b) says that in the case of a sin-offering, the violator receives atonement also through the Kohen’s eating.Consequently, since the sin-offering provides two forms of forgiveness (the altar’s consumption and the Kohen’s eating), it has priority over the burnt-offering, which only provides one.

When one commits idolatry, the sin-offering is entirely burnt on the altar with nothing eaten by Kohanim (Rambam, Ma’aseh Hakarbanot 1:16). Thus, this sin-offering, which does not provide the usual two forms of forgiveness, is not offered before the burnt-offering.

(הדרש והעיון)


"ויניחו אותו במשמר כי לא פרש מה יעשה לו"
“And they placed him in custody because it had not been declared what to do to him.” (15:34)

QUESTION: In theShulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 339:4) the Rama writes that it is forbidden to put someone in prison on Shabbat, even if it is feared that he will flee, because it resembles judgment, which is forbidden on Shabbat. TheShabbat violator was immediately apprehended and brought to Moshe; why were they permitted to place him under arrest?

ANSWER: Throughout the entire Torah, prison is never described as a means of punishment. The only reference to punitive imprisonment is in regard to Yosef, who allegedly committed a sin in Egypt and who was judged by its system. The “custody” mentioned in ourpasuk does not mean jail, but protective custody.

The Shabbat violator outraged the people. It was only the second Shabbat since their leaving Egypt and already someone had violated it. If he had not been placed in protective custody, the people might have literally ripped him apart, perhaps subjecting him to a fate harsher than the one imposed by his still unspecified punishment.

Thus, although punitive incarceration on Shabbat is indeed related to judgment and forbidden, placement in protective custody, which actually benefits the violator, is permitted.

(כרם שלמה)


"דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם ועשו להם ציצת"
“Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them that they shall make themselves tzitzit.” (15:38)

QUESTION: The word “ve’asu” — literally means, “and they shall make.” It should have said sheya’asu [say to them] that they shall make [themselves tzitzit].”

ANSWER: The portion of tzitzit is immediately preceded by the story of the mekosheish eitzim — the one who gathered wood — on Shabbat. He was placed under custody until it would be clarified what should be done. Hashem told Moshe that he was to be put to death for desecrating the Shabbat.

According to a Midrash (Tana D’vei Eliyahu — see Yalkut Shimoni) the reason for the juxtaposition of the two portions is the following: Hashem said to Moshe “This person desecrated the Shabbat.” Moshe responded in his defense, “You know that every day he has tefillin on his head and arm. On Shabbat, he was not donning Tefillin and therefore he sinned.” Hashem told Moshe, “Go and tell them about tzitzit. It is something that will apply always, even on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Upon seeing them they will remember all the commandments.”

Some may erroneously think that tzitzit is merely an alternative way to remember all the commandments, and one has the option to now wear either tefillin or tzitzit. Therefore, Hashem told Moshe to tell them that ve’asu” — “and they should make tzitzit.” Not as an alternative, but in addition to tefillin.

(אור החיים


"וראיתם אותו"
“And you shall see him.” (15:39)

QUESTION: The Ba’alei Mesorah indicate another two pesukim with the word “ure’item.” One is Moshe’s statement to the spies, “ure’item et ha’aretz” — “and you shall see the land” (13:18) — and the other is Pharaoh’s statement to the Jewish midwives, “ure’item al ha’avnayim” — “and you shall see on the birthstool” (Shemot 1:16). What is the connection between these three pesukim?

ANSWER: In Pirkei Avot (3:1) Akavia ben Mehallalleil says, “Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin. Know from where you come, and to where you are going, and before Whom you are destined to give an accounting.” These three pesukim are an allusion to the three things we are to reflect upon.

1) “Ure’iten al ha’avnayim” — “and you shall see on the birthstool” — teaches us to “see,” i.e. bear in mind, from where we came and how we were born.

2) “Ure’item et ha’aretz” — “and you shall see the land” (lit. “earth”) — cautions us to remember to where we will return.

3) “Ure’item oto” — “and you shall see Him” — is a message that ultimately we are destined to see Him on the day of judgment and, therefore, we should strenuously avoid sinning.

(מעינה של אבות בשם ר' שמעלקע זצ"ל מניקלשבורג)