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Battle of the Spies

Shlach (Numbers 13-15 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

In Parshat Shlach, Moses sends 12 people to scout out the Land of Israel. They return with the conclusion that there's no way to win a battle against the indigenous Canaanites.

Commentators point out that Moses sent the spies only to answer the question of how to conquer the land - not to decide "whether it's possible." What went wrong?

To help us unravel this puzzle, let's ask which of the following two statements is more accurate:

"I can succeed."


"I can't succeed."

At first glance, the statement of "I can't" sounds more accurate. Because "I" can't do anything independently at all. It's only because of God that I'm even able to wake up in the morning and tie my shoes!

But on a deeper level, the statement of "I can" is more accurate. Because if we understand that everything is a gift from God, then we know there's no limit to what we can achieve. The Almighty is all-powerful - Almighty! - and with the understanding that He's behind us, there is no basis for "I can't."

The Talmud says: "You are not required to finish the job; you're just expected to do your best." It's that kind of effort that God wanted from the spies. The task seems impossible? You think you can't do it? That's because you're thinking small, thinking finite, thinking on the basis of your own independent power.

Before Moses sent the 12 spies away, he added the Hebrew letter Yud to Joshua's name. Yud is the first letter of God's Name. This was meant to be a reminder to the spies - every time they'd mention Joshua's name - that the Almighty is always with you.


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