A SHORT STUDY OF SHELAH L'CHA (Num. 13-15) God tells Moshe to send forth a reconnaissance team FOR HIMSELF to explore Canaan, prior to its imminent commanded conquest. One outstanding leader of each tribe was chosen. In Deut. 1:20ff., the initiative comes from the people, with Moshe's approval. The Rabbis explain that God here acquiecsed to that request. Moshe calls Hoshea "Yehoshua" (God will save), implying that he anticipated trouble, and that Yehoshua would deal with it. The spies brought back samples of fruit and reported to Moshe. But they then went directly to the people and told them that they could not conquer the mighty inhabitants of the beautiful land. Caleb (who first pretended to agree with the spies) quieted the people and encouraged them. Then the other spies both bad-mouthed the land and frightened Israel: "We saw giants there... We were in our own eyes like grasshoppers, and so were we in their eyes"- one's self-image so much determines his image in others' eyes. Ch. 14: The people panicked and wept, bemoaning Exodus and their anticipated military disaster. Some wanted to return at once to Egypt. Rejected leaders Moshe and Aharon cast themselves down; Yehoshua and Caleb rent their garments, but tried again to encourage the people- true, all odds were against them, but that is irrelevant if God is on their side (compare 1948ff.). The mob was about to stone their leaders, when God's Glory appeared. He offers Moshe a deal- to destroy Israel and develop a better people from his descendants. Moshe's response is to plead for Israel. God's good Name will be disgraced if Exodus fails to lead to a free and holy Jewish people in Israel. Moshe recites God's Attributes- very patient, full of kindness, bearing, but not overlooking, sin; He considers one's ancestors for three or four generations in judging him. God accepts Moshe's plea, but this unfaithful generation shall never enter Israel. They'll detour, wandering in the desert, until all males 20 or over die; Calev and Yehoshua and those under 20, however, will eventually conquer the land. The spies themselves suddenly die. The next day the people mourned and were ready to make the conquest. Moshe told them that it was too late; but they went forward and were roundly defeated by their enemies. Ch 15: To reassure Israel that the new generation would make it, God now gives commandments only applicable in Israel- meal and wine offerings, accompanying animal sacrifices, and the gift of part of one's dough to God. Converts have the same rights and duties as native Jews. If the great Sanhedrin itself errs, a special sacrifice is prescribed for atonement. Everyone must bring a sin offering for careless error. Purposeful violation of any traditional law detaches one from the collective Jewish soul (15:31). A man, who gathered sticks on Shabbat, was brought to Moshe, Aharon, and the community for judgment. God ordered him stoned; it was done publicly. God then commanded Jewish males to put knotted fringes, including a thread of blue wool, on the corners of their 4 cornered garments. They remind us that God's commandments are Israel's guide, not Jews' own impulses and conclusions, for: "I'm God, your God, Who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be God to you; I, God, your God". The Haftorah is Joshua 2:1-24. Joshua quietly sends forth only 2 spies to reconnoiter Canaan. Collaborator Ms. Rachav assures them of success. She hides them and smuggles them out of Jericho. They promise to save her family and tell Joshua that the Canaanites are a pushover, with God's help.
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