The Yerushah by Rabbi Steven Finkelstein


Each year, as Parashat Shelach comes around, we turn our focus and attention to the negative campaign waged by ten of the Meraglim, or spies, upon their return from the Promised Land. Each year we analyze how these ten great leaders managed to steal the hearts and minds of an entire nation. We try to understand how, with a few carefully crafted lines, they succeeded at bringing a nation to hopelessness and tears.

This year, perhaps we should turn our attention to Kaleiv’s response to the other Meraglim. The challenge he faced was daunting. The fate of an entire generation was riding on him. What could Kaleiv possibly have said that would not only address the serious logistical concerns raised by the Meraglim, but also counter the feelings of despair that the masses were experiencing?

To make matters worse, the other Meraglim did not only lay out the facts as they saw them; they also crafted a brilliant Madison Avenue style ad campaign complete with words and catch phrases designed to elicit fear in the hearts of the people. These included, “Eretz Ochelet Yosheveha Hi,” “It is a land that consumes its inhabitants” (BeMidbar 13:32), and, of course, the word “Amaleik.” The Meraglim understood that their campaign needed a powerful slogan. They therefore came up with one word that could encapsulate their entire message. That word was “Efes” (13:28), literally, “zero.” In this case, zero hope. Zero chance. There is zero reason to even consider going up into the land.

 Taking all of this into consideration, Kaleiv prepared a slogan of his own. A line that he undoubtedly hoped would spur on the nation, reminding them that this is a worthy goal and that they are truly capable of achieving success.

 He declares, “Aloh Na’aleh VeYarashnu Otah, Ki Yachol Nuchal Lah,” “Let us go up and take the land, for we are able to conquer it” (BeMidbar 13:30).

 The most important word in Kaleiv’s argument is “VeYarashnu,” “and we shall inherit it.” If the word “Efes” encapsulates all of the thoughts and ideas of the other Meraglim, “VeYarashnu” is the perfect response. “VeYarashnu” reminds the people that while in an ordinary battle situation, such a conquest might be hopeless, this was no ordinary battle. This was a Yerushah, an inheritance, that was promised to our forefathers by Hashem and held for us to come and receive. In other words, Kaleiv was reminding the people that the Meraglim left one factor out of their strategic calculations. They omitted the fact that Hashem had set aside the land for Bnei Yisrael and He was ready to give it to them. All they needed to receive it was to go up and do their part.

There are many times in our own personal lives and in the lives of our people when the way of life that God has set out for us seems overwhelming, maybe even impossible. It is at those moments that we need to remind ourselves of Kaleiv’s message. Put God back into the equation, be willing to step up, and we will be able to inherit all that is coming to us.

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