Parashat Shelach

The Caleb Bridge

There are only two Parshiot in the Torah that contain the word "Lecha" (Thee or Thou). The first Parasha is Lech Lecha ("Get Thee Out") which tells us of Abraham Avinu and his arrival to the Land of Canaan and the second one is Shelach Lecha ("Send Thou Men") which we read this week and tells us of the spies, the twelve representatives of the tribes sent to Canaan to report back to the people of the state of the country.

I would like to build a virtual bridge between the Lech Lecha of Abraham Avinu and the Shelach Lecha of Moshe Rabenu. We are actually speaking of two "Aliyot" (migrations to Israel) that are very different. Abraham did not arrive by himself to Canaan, he was accompanied by his wife, his brother's son Lot and "the souls that they had gotten in Haran". This was an idealistic migration, with a deep theological background, and its goal was to spread the words of G-D in the new Land.

The tale of the spies is totally different. The ideal does not exist for them. They lack the bravery of Abraham. They want to see, visit, compare, calculate and only then to decide. Abraham Avinu, settled in the Negev Desert even though he knew that the grounds of Sodom and Gomorrah were green and fruitful. But he preferred the desert. Lot, his brother's son only saw the bounty of the land.

We belong to the generation of which the potential migration to or from Israel is closer to that of the spies than of Abraham's. Our generation (most of it) thinks more on the lines of not what I can do for the country but what can the country do for me.

RaSHI brings an interesting example for the virtual bridge we built between Abraham and the spies. In the first few paragraphs of our weekly Parasha it says "And they went up into the south, and (he) came unto Hebron" (Numbers 13, 22). It is odd that the Torah doesn't have them both in plural ("they went up" and "They came to Hebron"). Why start in plural and end in singular?

RaSHI says "Caleb alone went there, and he prostrated himself on the graves of our patriarchs and matriarchs (in Hebron)".

RaSHI shows an interesting point. While the spies were collecting military reconnaissance, security and economics mission, Caleb came into the country by himself to visit the grave of Abraham the Idealist. While the spies toured the country under the prism of profitability, Caleb toured the country under the prism of belonging. It is a paradox that Caleb acted as Abraham amongst the spies and Lot acted as the spies while with Abraham.

Caleb (and Yehoshuah Bin Nun as well) saw the same as the other spies saw. They also saw the fierce people who dwelled in Canaan and the "children of the Anak" (Giants). But still Caleb stood and said, "We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!" (Numbers 13, 30)

Both Caleb and Yehoshoah understood that the country wasn't perfect, but it is ours. This is the bridge between the "Realistic" and "Idealistic". Between Abraham's model and the spies model.

They are the bridge between the Lech Lecha and the Shelach Lecha.

Weekly Torah Portion