Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Parashah Shelach (“Send”) Bamidbar/Numbers 13:1 – 15:40

Parashah Shelach (“Send”)     Bamidbar/Numbers 13:1 – 15:40

Our ancestors are at the doorstep of the land that was promised, the Promised Land.  None of their family has been in that land for at least 210 years.  In reality, they only own a small piece of it – the cave and the field around it at Machpelah.  That is where Abraham lies, but Abraham had been told to look and traverse the land in every direction, for it was to all be his, albeit sometime in the future.  The future is now, if they so desire.

HaShem speaks to Moses and tells him that, if he wishes, he can spend men to spy out the land.  He chooses to do so, and he picks the most distinguished man from each tribe (not Levi) to perform the task.  “Marching instructions” are given to these distinguished men of Israel, seven specific characteristics they are to look for.
1.    Are the inhabitants strong or weak?
2.    Are there many or few inhabitants?
3.    Is the land good or bad (climate and terrain)?
4.    What cities do they have?
5.    Are the cities walled or do the people dwell in tents?
6.    Is the land fruitful or not?
7.    What are the trees and fruit like?

We should pause here for a moment to peruse the questions Moses desired to have answered.  Look them over – carefully.  What should we notice about these directives?  Do we see what is being sought as well as what is NOT being sought?  The answer will be revealed momentarily.

As we read more of Moses’ command the spies are directed to go enter the land in the south and then to get up into the mountain (13:17).  At what point were they to descend from the high ground?  There is no indication that they were to be anywhere but in the high country.  Why then do we read in the midst of verse 13:23 that “…they came down unto the Brook of Eshcol and cut down from thence a cluster of grapes…”?  The easy answer is that they were obeying the Moses’ charge to bring some of the fruit of the land back (13:20).

Can we obey and disobey at the same time?  What has priority?  Yeshua alludes to the performance of circumcision (work) on the Sabbath, yet He does not speak of that as being improper.  Yet, what is the result of their descent?  They now are in a position to get a close-up view of the inhabitants, and they were able to be seen for who they were.

The inhabitants of the land dwelled in the wilderness, plains, and Shephelah (the hills between the lowlands and the mountains.  While in the highlands, the inhabitants looked to the spies as grasshoppers, and it is also likely that the spies were not even seen from below.  If they had been seen, they, too, would have looked small from that distance.  But once they got down to the level of the current populace, well, even people six feet tall look like grasshoppers in the sight of those who are seven-and-a half to over eight feet tall.

I would like to posit that they did not need to go down to the lowlands at all.  From and article entitled “Israeli Wine Growing Regions” as posted in “Israeli Wineries”  (http://www.israeliwine.com/?p=26) I have been able to glean (how appropriate) the following information: 
            “Israel’s main wine growing areas remain the traditional coastal regions of Sharon & Shimshon, but the best quality wines are coming from the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights, Judean Hills & Ramat Arad.”

Notice that the best quality grapes are grown in the higher elevations.  There was no need for the men to go to the Brook Eshcol, but in doing so, they made themselves vulnerable in their own eyes.  Is not that feeling of vulnerability what we sense when we act in ways not according to His will?

I now jump to the end of this week’s reading, 15:38 – 41, the instructions regarding the tzitzis.  In isolating this passage, I want to specifically consider the purpose of the tzitzis as found in verse 39 and 40.  They are to be looked at, the commands of HaShem are to be remembered and acted upon.  We are not to seek our own heart nor our own eyes.  Why?  We are told that we will go “a whoring” after them.  After what?  Our hearts and eyes!

Jeremiah 17:9 states, “(t)he heart is deceitful above all things,and despereately wicked: who can know it?”  The Lord knows it!  We do not know what we do not know!  He is trying to protect us from ourselves.  We are to remember and do His commandments, thereby being holy unto our God.  As there are many examples of the cyclical events and thoughts in the Word, I am going to use this one to bring us back to a question I asked, but did not answer in paragraph 2 when I asked what did we notice about Moses’ directives to the spies.

Well, think of the last paragraph as you consider that question.  Go back and look at the questions Moses presented to them.  Not one of them asked for an opinion!  Statements of fact were all the he desired.  Ten of the twelve came back with a report from having sought out the land according to their own hearts and eyes.  Two, Joshua and Caleb, kept their hearts and eyes upon the commands of HaShem.  There is no proof of this, of course, but it would not surprise me to find out that these two had not left the highlands either.

May our hearts and eyes always be lifted up to the things of Above, for as He states in the last verse of this Parashah, “I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”  If He can bring us out, He can surely take us into the Promised Land!

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