Numbers (BeMidbar) 13:1 – 15:41
Moses sends out spies
HaShem said to Moses:
“Send out one high ranking member from each tribe to explore the Canaanite land I am about to give the Israelites.”
So Moses chose these men:
From the tribe of Reuben, Shamua, son of Zakur;
From the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat, son of Chori;
From the tribe of Judah, Caleb, son of Yefuneh;
From the tribe of Issachar, Yig’al, son of Joseph;
From the tribe of Ephriam, Joshua, son of Nun;
From the tribe of Benjamin, Palti, son of Raphu;
From the tribe of Zebulun, Gadiel, son of odi;
From the tribe of Manassah (from Joseph), Gaddi, son of Susi;
From the tribe of Dan, Amiel, son of Gemalli;
From the tribe of Asher, Sethur, son of Michael;
From the tribe of Naphtali, Nachbi, son of Vafsi;
From the tribe of Gad, Geu’el, son of Makhi;
Moses told these men to head north, to the Negev (the dry lands to the south of the Holy Lands), and then continue north, to the hill country. “See what it’s like there,” he instructed them. “Are the people who live there weak or strong? Are there many of them, or few? Is the area where they live good or bad? Are their cities open or fortified? Is the soil rich or weak? Are there trees on that land? Make a special effort to bring back some of the fruits that grow there.”
They left in the early summer, when the first grapes begin to ripen. (Some say it was the 29th of Sivan.) They explored the lands from the Tzin Desert all the way to Rechov. On the way through the Negev, they came to Hebron, a city that was built seven years before the great and important city of Zoan. There they saw Achiman, Sheshai and Talmi, the children of the giant Anak. Then they came into the valley of Eshkol. It was there they cut down a great cluster of grapes that was so large they had to be carried on a pole between two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs. They named that place Cluster Valley because of that grape cluster they found there.
The men had been gone from their Israelite community in the Paran Desert for 40 days, but when they arrived home they went directly to Moses and Aaron, even before they went to their own houses. They gave their report about the new land and showed the fruit they’d brought back.
They said, “We went to the land you sent us to explore and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey, as you can see from the fruits we brought back. However, the people who live in that land are fierce and frightening, and their cities are large and well fortified. The Amelak tribes live in the south, in the Negev area. The Hittites, the Yebusites and the Amorites live in the hills, and the Canaanite tribe lives near the Mediterranean, on the banks of the Jordan River. We also saw the children of Anak the Giant.”
The people were frightened by this news and Caleb tried to calm them, to quiet them for Moses. “It’s true the natives there are strong and their cities are well protected, but we are stronger than them. We must go forth and occupy the land. We can do it!”
But the men who had travelled with Caleb replied, “We can’t go forward against those people. They’re stronger than us.” They began to speak badly of that land and when they saw that Caleb’s words had made some impression on the crowd, they began to tell lies about it, saying, “That land eats up the people who live there. All the men we saw there were giants, sons of the original titans, and next to them we felt like tiny grasshoppers. And in their eyes, that’s all we were, grasshoppers!”
Their words brought terror and despair to the hearts of the Israelites who began to shout and weep. They complained to Moses and Aaron, “We wish we’d died in Egypt. Why has HaShem brought us to this land to die by the sword—our wives and children will be captives, we should go back to Egypt. We’ll appoint a new leader and go back to Egypt.”
At this, Moses and Aaron fell, their faces to the ground, prostrating themselves in front of the entire community, pleading with them to abandon their fatal plan to return to Egypt. Of all the men who had gone exploring in the new land, only Joshua and Caleb tried to defend HaShem’s gift of land. Tearing their clothes in grief, they said to the crowd, “The land we passed through is very, very good land. If HaShem is satisfied with us enough to give us this land of milk and honey, then HaShem will protect us when we go to occupy it. Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people in the land HaShem promised us, for they have lost their protection and they shall be our prey.”
Threat of Destruction
But the crowds didn’t believe them and threatened to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. Suddenly, HaShem’s glory appeared in the Communion Tent, before all the Israelites. And HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, “How long will these people continue to provoke me? How can they not believe in me after all the miracles I have done among them? I shall kill them all with a plague and make of you a greater nation of people than these!”
Moses replied to HaShem, “And what will happen when the Egyptians hear about it? You have brought this nation out from among them with Your great power! And what if they tell the people who live in this land? They have heard that You, HaShem, have been with Israel. You, HaShem, have revealed Yourself to them face to face, and Your cloud stands over them. You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night. Now you want to kill this entire nation! The nations who hear this news about You will say that HaShem was not able to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them, so He slaughtered them in the desert. Now, HaShem, is the time for You to exercise even more restraint. You once declared, ‘I am slow to anger, great in love, and forgiving of sin and rebellion. He does not clear those who do not repent, but keeps in mind the sins of the fathers for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.’ With Your great love, forgive the sin of this nation, just as You have forgiven them from [the time they left] Egypt until now.”
HaShem said, “I will grant forgiveness as you have requested. But as I am Life, and as HaShem’s glory fills all the world, I will punish all the people who saw My glory and the miracles that I did in Egypt and the desert, but still tried to test Me these ten times by not obeying Me. They will therefore not see the land that I swore to their ancestors. All those who provoked Me will not see it. The only exception will be My servant Caleb, since he showed a different spirit and followed Me wholeheartedly. I will bring him to the land that he explored, and his descendants will possess it. The Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valley. Tomorrow you will have to leave this place and strike out into the desert toward the Red Sea.”
The Decree of Forty Years Wandering
HaShem spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, “How long shall this evil group exist, complaining against Me? I have heard how the Israelites are complaining about Me. Tell them ‘As I am Life, it is HaShem’s solemn declaration that I will make your accusations against Me come true. Because you complained about Me, your corpses will fall in this desert. This will happen to your complete tally, everyone over twenty years old who was counted. My oath is that you will not come into the land regarding which I swore with a raised hand that I would let you live in it undisturbed. The only exceptions will be Caleb (son of Yefuneh) and Joshua (son of Nun).
You said that your children will be taken captive, but they will be the ones I will bring there, so that they will know the land that you rejected. You, however, will fall as corpses in the desert. Your children will be herded from place to place in the desert for forty years, paying for your indiscretion until the last of your corpses lie here in the desert. The punishment shall parallel the number of days you spent exploring the land. There were forty days, and there shall be one year for each day, a total of forty years until your sin is forgiven. You will then know how I act. I, HaShem, have spoken, and there is no way that I will not do this to the entire evil community that has banded against Me. They will end their lives in this desert, and here is where they will die.’
The men whom Moses sent to explore the land, and who returned and complained about it to the entire community, slandering the land, were punished immediately. The men who had given a bad report about the land thus died before HaShem in the plague.
Among the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua (son of Nun) and Caleb (son of Yefuneh) remained alive.
People try to enter the land
Moses related HaShem’s words to all the Israelites, and they were overcome with terrible grief. When they got up early in the morning, they began climbing toward the top of the mountain declaring, “We are now ready! We shall go forward to the place that HaShem described. We admit that we were mistaken.”
“Why are you going against HaShem’s word?” said Moses. “It won’t work! Do not go; HaShem is not with you. Don’t be killed by your enemies! Up ahead of you are the Amalekites and Canaanites, and you will fall by the sword. You have gone away from HaShem, and now HaShem will not be with you.”
The people defiantly climbed toward the top of the mountain, but the Ark of HaShem’s covenant and Moses did not move from the camp. The Amalekites and Canaanites who lived on that mountain swooped down, and defeated them, pursuing them with crushing force all the way to Chormah.
Meal Offerings for Sacrifices
HaShem spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you come to your homeland that I am giving you,
you will be presenting fire offerings to HaShem. They may be burnt offerings, or other sacrifices, either for a general or specific pledge, or for your festivals. Taken from the cattle or smaller animals, they shall be meant to provide an appeasing fragrance to HaShem.
The one bringing the sacrifice to HaShem must then present a grain offering consisting of 1/10 ephah of the best grade wheat meal mixed with 1/4 hin olive oil. The wine for the libation shall [also] be 1/4 hin. This shall be for each sheep offered as a burnt offering or [peace] sacrifice.
For a ram, you shall prepare a grain offering of 2/10 ephah wheat meal mixed with 1/3 hin oil. The wine for the libation shall also be 1/3 hin, presented as an appeasing fragrance to HaShem.
If you prepare one of the cattle as a burnt offering or other sacrifice, to fulfill a vow, or as a peace offering to HaShem, then together with each animal one must present a grain offering of 3/10 ephah of wheat meal mixed with 1/2 hin oil. The wine presented as a libation shall [also] be 1/2 hin, as a fire offering, an appeasing fragrance to HaShem.
You must follow this prescription for each bull or ram, or, among the smaller animals, for sheep and goats. Regardless of the number prepared, you must present the prescribed meal offering for each one.
In order to present a fire offering that is an appeasing fragrance to HaShem, every native born Israelite must present it in this manner, along with the prescribed grain offerings. If a proselyte joins you, or lives among you in future generations, and he prepares a fire offering as an appeasing fragrance to HaShem, he must do it in exactly the same manner. Among the group that may marry one another, the same rule shall apply both to you and to the proselyte who joins. It is an eternal law for future generations that the proselyte shall be the same as you before HaShem. There shall thus be one Torah and one law for you and for the proselyte who joins you.
The Dough Offering
HaShem spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you come to the land to which I am bringing you, and you eat the land’s produce, you must separate an elevated gift for HaShem. You must separate the first portion of your kneading as a dough offering. It must be separated very much like the elevated gift that is taken from the threshing floor. In future generations, you must thus give the first of your kneading as an elevated gift to HaShem.
Communal Sin Offerings for Idolatry
This is the law if you inadvertently commit an act of idolatry, which is equivalent to violating all these commandments that HaShem gave to Moses. It is like a violation of all that HaShem commanded you through Moses, from the day that HaShem gave His commandments, as well as what He will command you later in future generations.
If such a sin is committed inadvertently by the community because of their leadership, the entire community must prepare one young bull for a burnt offering as an appeasing fragrance to HaShem, along with its prescribed grain offering and libation. They must also present one goat for a sin offering.
The priest shall then make atonement for the entire Israelite community, and they will be forgiven. It was inadvertent, and they brought their sacrifice as a fire offering to HaShem along with their sin offering before HaShem, for their misdeed. Since all the people acted without knowledge, the entire Israelite community along with the proselytes who join them shall thus be forgiven.
Individual Sin Offerings for Idolatry
If a person commits such a sin] inadvertently, he must bring a yearling female goat for a sin offering. The priest will then make atonement before HaShem for the individual who sinned inadvertently, to expiate his sin, and he will be forgiven.
There shall be a single law for one who does such an inadvertent act, whether he is a native born Israelite or a proselyte who joins them.
However, if a person commits such an act of idolatry high-handedly, whether he is native born or a proselyte, he is blaspheming HaShem, and that person shall be cut off spiritually from among his people. Since he has went against HaShem’s word and violated His commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off [spiritually and] his sin shall remain upon him.
The Man Gathering Sticks on the Sabbath
While the Israelites were in the desert, they discovered a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath. The ones who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron and the entire community.
Since it was not specified what must be done to him, they placed him under guard.
The Penalty for Sabbath Violation
HaShem said to Moses, “That man must die. Let the entire community pelt him with stones outside the camp.”
The entire community took him outside the camp, and they pelted him to death with stones. It was done as HaShem had commanded Moses.
HaShem spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to the Israelites and have them make tassels on the corners of their garments for all generations. They shall include a twist of sky-blue wool in the corner tassels. These shall be your tassels, and when you see them, you shall remember all of HaShem’s commandments so as to keep them. You will then not stray after your heart and eyes, which in the past have led you to immorality.
You will thus remember and keep all My commandments, and be holy to your HaShem. I am HaShem your Lord, who brought you out of Egypt to be your HaShem. I am HaShem your Lord.
Next Week’s Parsha : Korach Numbers 16:1 – 18:32
Next Week’s Haftara: I Samuel 11.14-12.22