Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Shelach

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts 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.

R' Frand started his vort by quoting a gemara in Sotah which Rashi in the parsha recounts. The gemara states that the spies died in a "mageifa" or abnormal death plague. When the spies died, their tongues became elongated and went all the way down to their navels. Then worms started crawling up and down the tongues. Rashi concludes that this death was middah k'neged middah. 

Why was this middah k'neged middah? The simple answer is that since they used their tongues to speak evil about Israel, they were punished with their tongues. However, the deeper question is, why did their tongues need to be elongated? Couldn't their tongues just have fallen out?

R' Frand answered the question by quoting the Tolner Rebbi who observed that the language of pesukim which describe the spies can give insight into the reason for this punishment.

The first pasuk  describing the spies is found in Bamidbar 13:26 wherein the Torah states that the spies came back and spoke to Moshe and Aharon and the entire Jewish people. The pasuk uses the term "Vayashivu osam davar" which is translated as they "brought back the report to them."

However, in the following pasuk (13:27) it states "Vayisapru Lo" which is translated as "they reported to him."

R' Frand asked in the name of the Tolner Rebbi, who in turn quoted the Ohr Hachaim HaKadosh who asked - what happened to everyone else? Why do they start by addressing Moshe, Aharon and everyone and then afterwards speak only to Moshe? And why does the pasuk go from Vayashivu to Vayisapru?

Lastly, R' Frand noted that when Moshe recounts the story of the spies in Sefer Devarim he does not seem to be critical of them. But why?

R' Frand answered by explaining that Vayashivu means that the speaker just reported the facts. No opinion or elaboration was given or needed - just what was observed. However, the use of Vayisapru means that a story was told. 

The Ramban explains that this is why the meraglim were punished. Moshe asked a question about the land and they responded with facts about the land and gave details. All of this was true and they did what they were told. The description of the people and cities were all correct. But the spies' sin was saying in 13:27, "Efes Ki Az Ha'am" - meaning - "everything we said until now was false." This was not for them to say.

The direct conversation with Moshe also shows their plot. The spies came and whispered in Moshe's ears, but to the eyes of the nation. The Sefer Arvei Nachal explains that they whispered to Moshe so that people would come and ask - what did you tell Moshe? Then they could tell a story and rope everyone in.

So why were their tongues elongated? Because the spies spoke too much - they added editorial comment, rather than speaking just of the facts. So their tongues were elongated because they spoke too much.

The gemara in Erchin discusses lashon hara. Each thought about lashon hara begins with the statement that someone is "mesaper" - tells lashon hara. Why does the gemara not say "medaber" or speaks lashon hara? Because just repeating the facts is not the same as enticing and drawing the listener in by adding editorial comment.

We know that the mitzva to teach the seder at the table is sipur yitziyas mitzraim. If a person wanted to have a seder and say "Hashem took us out of Egypt, let's eat", he would not fulfill the obligation as he has not told the story in a way that is interesting and brings in the listener. However, when a person tells lashon hara, he uses his power of speech negatively to rope people in by elongating the story. This is why the meraglim were punished in the way that they were.

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