Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Shelach

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In describing the punishment of the Jews for the cheyt hamiraglim (the sin of the spies) the Torah writes in Bamidbar 14:34 that it was "yom lashana" - a day for every year.

R' Asher Weiss asks - how long did it take for the spies to relay their lashon hara about the land of Israel? At most their report took one day. If so, why were the Jews condemned to wander in the desert for forty years?

Rabbi Weiss answers that the sin of lashon hara (speaking evil about another) is not only when the words are uttered, as there is a component of lashon hara which involves viewing events with a jaundiced eye - seeing and making negative observations which are then relayed orally by the speaker.

By way of example, the Medrash writes that the spies saw numerous funerals when they toured the land. They could have drawn the conclusion that Hashem was protecting them by eliminating their enemies. Instead, the spies concluded that the land was incapable of supporting life and they reported back that the land consumed its inhabitants.

Rabbi Frand gave another example which related to the animal kingdom. A certain German philosopher upon viewing animals in Africa concluded that the law of the fittest applied. He noted that the fast animals escape the predators, while the slow or ill animals are caught and consumed. Similarly, the small fish is eaten by the big fish which in turn is eaten by a larger fish.

However, the gemara in Eruvin has an entirely different way of viewing animals. R' Yochanan notes that if the Torah had never been given, we could have learned middos from animals such as the cat, dove and ant. The cat teaches derech eretz by burying its waste. The dove teaches fidelity as it mates for life and does not take up with another bird even after the death of its mate. The ant will not take food or material from another ant and instead forages outside the anthill until it finds what it is looking for.

Rabbi Frand concluded by noting that lashon hara is sometimes called eiyna bisha - that the speaker of lashon hara views things with a negative outlook. With this in mind we understand why the punishment was yom lashana. The spies embarked on their tour of Israel with negative thoughts which immediately colored their perspective. As such, their entire trip was preparation for the lashon hara they told the Jews on that fateful date in Av.

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