The Power of an Eidah by Ariel Reiner


After the Meraglim return from their trip to the Land of Kena’an, Bnei Yisrael’s anticipation of entering the Holy Land of Israel changes significantly. Instead of the planned trip filled with praise and excitement, the twelve spies quickly change Bnei Yisrael’s minds. Excluding Yehoshu’a and Kaleiv, the remaining ten spies choose to focus on the pessimistic view that Bnei Yisrael are weak and won’t be able to conquer Kena’an. The Meraglim and the rest of Kelal Yisrael lack the Emunah needed in order to be ready to enter Eretz Yisrael with the help of Hashem. Hashem expresses his frustration over this constant negativity to Moshe by saying (BeMidbar 14:27), Ad Matai LaEidah HaRa’ah HaZot,” “How long will I continue to bear this wicked nation?” Rashi (ad. loc. s.v. LaEidah HaRa’ah) explains that the word “Eidah” is referring to the Meraglim and that from here we learn that the word “Eidah” refers to a group of ten. In another instance, Hashem states, Hibadelu MiToch HaEidah HaZot,” “Separate yourself from this congregation” (BeMidbar 16:21). Rav Yanay (Sanhedrin 74b) explains that there is a Gezeirah Shava (analogy by common term) from the word “Toch” here to the Pasuk “VeNikdashti BeToch Bnei Yisrael,” “And I [Hashem] will be sanctified amongst the nation of Israel” (VaYikra 22:32) to teach us that just as the Meraglim are ten Jews who constitute an “Eidah,” so too anything with the status of a Davar SheBeKedusha must be done with ten people.

It seems quite strange that Rav Yanay would connect two completely opposite Pesukim. One Pasuk, “VeNikdashti BeToch Bnei Yisrael,” describes how Hashem should be sanctified by His people. The other Pasuk describes a group of people who do the exact opposite of “VeNikdashti;” they show a lack of Emunah in Hashem and make a Chilul Hashem. This begs the following question: Why do we derive the idea of Minyan from a group of individuals who caused Bnei Yisrael to remain outside of Israel for an extra 40 years due to their Chilul Hashem?

Rav Yosef Dov HaLeivi Soloveitchik, offers an amazing insight as to why we learn that ten Jews are needed for a Davar SheBeKedushah from the Meraglim. At the time of Cheit HaMeraglim there are 603,550 Jewish males in the desert. All of these males witness the incredible revelation at Har Sinai, and yet, just a few months later, they are convinced that the Meraglim should be believed over Moshe and Hashem. Look at the immense power of ten people! These ten are able to convince a nation of 603,550 people coming off of the ultimate Kedushah of Har Sinai to believe that it would be better not to follow Hashem’s directive. As the Rav explains, we learn that a Davar SheBeKedushah needs ten people from the Meraglim to show that just as they so easily used the power of the Eidah to create the ultimate Chilul Hashem, the power of the Eidah can also be used to make the ultimate Kidush Hashem.

The Rav’s explanation could also explain why Avraham stops arguing with Hashem to save Sedom after asking (BeReishit 18:32), “Will You save the city if ten Tzaddikim live there?” The Ibn Ezra (BeReishit 18:29 s.v. Lo E’eseh BaAvor HaArba’im) explains that the reason Avraham stops pleading for Sedom is because of the rule that there is no Daver SheBeKedushah with less than ten people. Why does Ibn Ezra connect Avraham’s prayer for Sedom to a Daver SheBeKedushah? Based on the Rav’s understanding of the role that a Minyan can play, we can understand why Sedom needs at least ten Tzaddikim. Avraham acknowledges the fact that while ten Tzaddikim have the power to make a city worthy of being saved, anything less than that won’t have any impact on the people; therefore, such a city can never be a place of Kedushah.

As Jews, we have to take the lesson of the “Eidah” to heart. When we derive the idea of Kidush Hashem from the Meraglim and their Chilul Hashem we must realize that just as they have the power to influence Bnei Yisrael negatively, we as Kelal Yisrael and as an Eidah have the power to influence people for good.

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