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Thursday, Sivan 24, 5782 / June 23, 2022


This week’s Parsha, Shlach begins with the story of the twelve spies whom Moshe sent to scout the land of Canaan. Choosing one representative from each tribe, Moshe sent them to scout the Promised Land and bring back a report.  From the tribe of Ephraim, he chose his faithful student, Joshua. The Torah tells us that Moshe then changed Joshua’s name from “Hosheia” to “Yehoshua.” 


Unfortunately, the spies brought back a negative report. They claimed that the inhabitants of the land were too mighty and no match for them to conquer. As a result, the people cried and refused to go ahead. They claimed that they preferred to have stayed in Egypt or to die in the desert. G-d then decreed that no one over twenty years old will go into the Promised Land. Jews ended up staying in the desert for the next forty years. Moshe, Aaron, Miriam and that entire generation died in the desert.


Q.  Why did Moshe change Joshua’s name from “Hosheia” to “Yehoshua”?


A.  The word “Yehoshua” is comprised from two words, “YehoShua” – which means “G-d should help you.” Moshe prayed for his student that G-d should save him from the negative ideas of the ten spies.”  Moshe had a feeling that the spies may come back with a negative report. He prayed for his student not to be influenced negatively by the rest of them.


Q.  For the spies to scout the land and return in only forty days was a miracle.  Why did G-d perform such a miracle, when He knew that they were coming back with a negative report?


A.  Our sages say that when G-d realized that their intentions were bad and that in the end He would punish the people to stay in the desert one year for every day the spies scouted the land, G-d made a miracle that they should cover their mission in only forty days, so that the Jewish people wouldn’t have to be in the desert for more than forty years. The ten spies died in a plague soon after their report.


Q.   G-d promised the land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. G-d told them that it was a land which flows milk and honey, so why did G-d give Moshe permission to send the spies to check out the land?


A.   When Moshe told G-d that the Jewish people want to send scouts, G-d didn’t object.  He wanted them to be excited and look forward to entering the land not only out of faith in Him but because of their own realization of how good the land was.  Had the spies brought back a good report, the Jewish people would have been anxious to get there as quickly as possible.  This is what G–d wanted.  However, with the negative report the spies gave, everything went wrong. 


The lesson from this story for us, thousands of years later, is that faith in G-d’s words goes a long way. We must realize that when G-d wants us to perform a mitzvah, he also gives us the means and ability to do it. G-d doesn’t expect us to perform the impossible. Even when it seems to us that we encounter obstacles, we must know that if He commanded us to do a mitzvah, He gives us the means to perform it.