Kiddush HaLashon by Eli Ginsberg


In Parashat Devarim, Moshe Rabbeinu rebukes Bnei Yisrael for the sins they committed in the desert. When he discusses the story of the Meraglim, originally found in Parashat Shelach, he accuses Bnei Yisrael of causing him to be barred entry into the land of Israel, recounting, Gam Bi Hitanaf Hashem Biglalchem Leimor Gam Atah Lo Tavo Sham,” “Hashem became angry at me as well because of you, saying, ‘You, too, shall not come there’” (Devarim 1:37). This Pasuk is difficult to understand, because it is explicitly stated in Parashat Chukat that it was due to Moshe’s sin at Mei Merivah that he was not able to enter Eretz Yisrael. If this is the case, why does Moshe blame it on Bnei Yisrael’s sin with the Meraglim?

The Or HaChayim answers based on Chazal’s interpretation of the Pasuk VaYivku HaAm BaLaylah HaHu,” “The nation cried that night” (Devarim 14:1). Chazal explain that since Bnei Yisrael cried the night of Tish’ah BeAv due to the Meraglim’s Leshon Harafalse report, Hashem decreed that in the future Tish’ah BeAv would be a sorrowful day for the Jews. In fact, both Temples were destroyed on Tish’ah BeAv. If Moshe had been able to enter into the land of Israel, explains the Or HaChayim, he would have been able to build the Beit HaMikdash. If Moshe had built the Beit HaMikdash, Hashem would not have been able to destroy it, because it was built by someone as great and holy as Moshe. Hashem would then have no choice to punish Bnei Yisrael but by destroying them, rather than the Beit HaMikdash. Therefore, when Bnei Yisrael cried over the Meraglim’s false words, Hashem decreed that Moshe would also die in the desert to avoid the possibility of future destruction. This is why Moshe accused Bnei Yisrael of keeping him out of Eretz Yisrael.

However, if it was decreed that Moshe would not be able to enter Eretz Yisrael after the sin with the Meraglim, why does it say in Parashat Chukat that this was due to the sin at Mei Merivah? Perhaps the answer is that if Moshe had asked the rock for water, rather than hitting it, the resulting Kiddush Hashem would have caused Bnei Yisrael to repent and return to their level of Kedushah prior to the sin of the Meraglim. They would have then merited entrance to the land of Israel, with no guarantee of ultimate destruction. By hitting the rock instead of talking to it, Moshe did not create a Kiddush Hashem and inspire Bnei Yisrael, and as such, they did not repent. Therefore, this sin and Moshe’s failure to make things right is given as the reason he cannot enter Eretz Yisrael.

Could the sin of the Meraglim really have been rectified at Mei Merivah? How is this connected to the Beit HaMikdash? The Gemara (Gittin 56a) discusses the story of Kamtza, Bar Kamtza, and a highly insenstive party host. Due to the hatred the host shows in this incident, Bar Kamtza goes and tells the Roman Emperor the Jews want to revolt. In the end, the Leshon HaRa that Bar Kamtza told ultimately resulted in the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. Similarly, the sin of the Meraglim revolved around the LeShon HaRa the Meraglim spoke about Eretz Yisrael. At Mei Merivah, Moshe could have used his speech to make a Kiddush Hashem and reverse the negative Leshon HaRa from the Meraglim.

As Tish’ah BeAv approaches, we should learn the lesson that we need to guard our speech and be MeKadeish Sheim Shamayim with it instead. With this, we should be Zocheh to see the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, BiMheirah BeYameinu.

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