You are on page 1of 1

Young Israel of Plainview

Parshat Shelach
The Prophecy Project - Spies Like Us
The comparison, or perhaps more correctly contrast, of our Haftorah (Joshua Chapter 2) to our parsha is abundantly clear. Just as Moses sends spies from the desert into the land of Israel; so too Joshua sends spies from the east bank of the Jordan river into the land of Israel. That is where the similarities end. Moses' spies are all anashim, nobleman, named and celebrated as the people of Israel's delegation to the land of Canaan, that was promised to there father Abraham. Joshua's spies, however, remain anonymous; it is unclear, and perhaps unlikely, that the Israelites even knew they were sent. Ironically, the greater men, Moses' spies fall victim to fear and faithlessness. Faced with the daunting task of conquering the land of Israel, they balk after bearing witness to the power of the Canaanite nations. Joshua's spies focus specifically on their military task. They are to uncover a weakness in Jericho in order to allow for the Israelite army to swiftly break through and capture the city. As omniscient readers, knowing that the walls of Jericho ultimately miraculously fall, we often miss the nature of Joshua's spies' clandestine responsibilities. They were careful to choose Rahab as their ally. As a prostitute, she had no issues breaking the law. Moreover, she lived in the wall of the city, thus giving an invading army a potential entrance into a walled city. Indeed, the spies insist that she hang a scarlet rope from her window, perhaps a place for soldiers to climb. Ultimately, the backdoor into the city is unnecessary as God miraculously causes the walls of Jericho to fall. The amorphous nature of Moses' spies responsibilities and their inflated self-perception ultimately leads to their downfall; they project, interpolate and interpret rather than report. Joshua's anonymous spies, however, understand their particular role, put their egos aside, and work toward the success of the nation. This goal-oriented, faithful approach ultimately inspires God's miracle. Our own egos and sense of self often mar and skew our own perspective and prevent success. Setting goals, having faith in Hashem, and embracing a sense of modesty can go along way in inspiring our own achievements.

Lashon Hara
Many of the laws of slander/gossip are learned from Moses' spies, who the Torah describes as having spoke lashon hara of the land. The gossiper often justifies his/her slander by declaring that his victim, like land, cares not for what s/he is saying. God punishes the spies for speaking ill of the land of Israel, and the people for believing those statements. If for a land with no feelings, God reacts so harshly, how much more so for people. Let us remind ourselves the power of words and labels to hurt others.