Thursday, June 12, 2014

Shlach L’kha (Send on your behalf) B’midbar/Numbers 13:1–15:41

Shlach L’kha (Send on your behalf)
B’midbar 13:1 – 15:41
Portion under discussion: B’midbar/Numbers 13:21 – 14:7

            The previous parshah concludes with “When they left it was the season for the first grapes to ripen.”  According to the chart on page 28 of the Holman Bible Atlas, the grape harvest and processing season begins in the month of Ab, approximately the end of our July and beginning of August.
            Commencing there in what will become the southern border, the spies make their way from the Wilderness of Zin, through the Negev (means “south” – TwotOT #1288a) up to Hebron.  Abram built an altar near here, but I wonder if there was not a short side stop at the nearby Cave of Machpelah.  It is an interesting thought to me, for if they did stop there, they were standing on land they already possessed in a legal sense.  Also, it would be somewhat similar to what American Colonel Charles E. Stanton is reputed to have said upon landing in France during World War I, “Lafayette, we have come.”  I can imagine one of the spies saying something to the effect of, “Father Abraham, we are here as your descendants to receive the land promised to you.”
            There is one problem that I see with them having gone to Hebron, and that is that the instructions (vs. 17) were to go to the Negev and then to the hills to see what the land was like.  Reaching Hebron required either going through the Valley of Eshcol (Valley of Clusters) or descending from the highlands, and vs. 22 indicates they did the former.
            Why, you may ask, is this a problematic?  Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, all sons of Anak lived in the area.  In some previous “research” I did regarding giants of lore, there seem to be quite a few skeletons of those ranging from around 8’ tall to over 35’ tall.  My research has not been extensive, but were I to be standing on the same level as any of these, I would probably feel like a grasshopper.  However, had the spies been in the high country as they had been directed, these people would not have seemed so large, the spies may not have been seen, and I dare say that the giants would have not struck so much fear into the hearts of these leaders of the children of Israel.
            A cluster of grapes was taken from the Valley of Eshcol; one cluster which required two men draping it over a pole in order to carry it back to Moses.  Were the giants the size they are supposed to be, and possibly of an “angelic/human” origin, it is not surprising to me that they raised grapes and other foods to this great size.
            Forty days had passed when the spies returned to Kadesh with their report.  The land did flow with milk and honey!  No, they did not have sticky substances clinging to their sandals, and no, they were not wearing mustaches and saying, “Got milk?”  Flowing with milk and honey is a combination of two Hebraic idioms meaning the land is good for herding (milk) and farming (honey).  The milk thought is somewhat obvious, I presume, and the honey reference is to bees which fertilize the plants which have been planted.  Look at the fruit we brought back!
            BUT…the people are warrior-like; they have large, walled cities; and if that is not enough, we say the Anakim in the Negev area!  The hills are where the Hittites , Jebusites, and Emorites live, and the Canaanites live by the Mediterranean Sea.  There is no place for us; every inhabitable spot is taken!
            Caleb and Joshua did not dispute any of the details, but they had faith in the L-rd and in what He had already pronounced.  They proclaimed that they should go into the land right away and conquer it.  Ten disputed their thoughts, and these ten swayed the multitude.
            Listening to man again, the people wailed and cried about their state of affairs.  Not that they had all the water they wanted, not that they received manna on a daily basis, not that their clothes were not wearing out, not that they were lead by a pillar of fire or cloud; no, G-d has just brought them there to die by the sword.
            A rebellion of sorts is about to occur.  A new leader are to be chosen so that they people may return to Egypt.  I hope they did not plan on retracing their steps through the Red Sea.  Moses and Aaron did not argue against them, they fell on their faces, and I have no doubt that they were interceding for the people so that the Almighty did not strike them dead immediately. 
            Joshua and Caleb reiterated their earlier remarks that the land was good.  They were confident in what they had seen and Who was the Giver.

            Why do I, why do we depend so much upon our five senses, and not upon the Word of H-m Who created our senses.  Why do we rely on feelings?  Why do we not trust Him Who knows everything to take us into what is “unknown” only to us, not H-m?  Why, instead of pushing forward, do we relish being in our comfort zone, even if that comfort zone has been rendered totally inept and useless by the hand of G-d?  Why?
             Father, I believe, help my unbelief!

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