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Dvar for Shelach (Numbers 13:1 – 15:41)

While the stage was set for the tribal leaders to bring the Jews into the Promised Land, Parshat Shelach describes the tragic negative report that condemned the Jews to the desert for forty years until the next generation was ready to claim their Promised Land. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe asked: Roughly a year after the miracles in Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the giving of the Torah, and many other miracles, how could the tribal leaders suddenly doubt G-d’s ability to help us occupy the land that was promised to us? The Jews’ doubts are even more difficult to understand if you consider Rachav’s description of Yericho’s residents’ fear of the Jews as they neared (Joshua 2:9-11).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered his question by saying that the leaders didn’t fear failure; they feared success in a new way of life. G-d was close and intimate with His people while they were wandering in the desert. The leaders knew that entering the land meant fighting battles, creating an economy, farming the land, and being confronted with other distractions. However, perhaps what they didn’t realize was that their success was easily attainable and right in front of them in the form of Torah, written precisely to enable them to thrive in society and serve as a moral guide to engage with the world. While being close to G-d alone in the desert is an amazing experience, using the Torah to help us navigate the world is its true purpose.