Shabbat Shelah-Lekha 5783

When, on that rare occasion, you make an egregious error, it’s likely that you overcompensate for that mistake and go out of your way to fix it. Especially if it was an error of omission. “I neglected to return so-and-so’s phone call, and she was furious with me, so now I call her every three days.” Sounds like an authentic form of teshuvah, doesn’t it?
Apparently, the acute instinct to right a wrong isn’t always the correct instinct. In this week’s Torah portion, Shelah-Lekha, we have the infamous story of the meraglim, the scouts who return from a mission to the Promised Land with a majority report of despair. Since the Israelites join the 10 nay-saying scouts in their pessimism, God decrees that the entire generation–save for Calev and Yehoshu’a–will wander the wilderness for 40 years, and are doomed to die without setting foot in the Land. The Torah tells us that the People were “overcome with grief” upon hearing the Divine decree. A fighting force ascends the hills and declares itself remorseful and ready to go. Moshe tries to discourage them–don’t go, for God in not in your midst, and you are liable to be routed in battle. Sure enough, they don’t heed Moshe’s warning, and “defiantly they marched” right into a massacre.
The Torah’s verb for “marching defiantly” is vaya’apilu, which gives this group of Israelites the name ma’apilim. This is usually a pejorative term. The Torah seems to conclude that they got what they deserved. But is there a way to read their actions in a positive light? On Shabbat morning, we’ll find one commentator who does.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 8:10 PM
Torah Reading: Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24