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Parasha Shlach (Send): The Effect of an Evil Report

Shlach (Send)
Numbers 13:1–15:41; Joshua 2:1–24; Hebrews 3:7–4:1

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.  From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.’”  (Numbers 13:1–2)

Western (Wailing) Wall-pilgrimage-prayer

The Western (Wailing) Wall, which is a remnant of the wall that once surrounded the Holy Temple’s courtyard, has been a site of Jewish pilgrimage and prayer for 1600 years or more.

Last week, in Parasha Behaalotecha, we read that Aaron was commanded to light the lamps of the Menorah, and that the tribe of Levi was initiated into service for the Tabernacle.

In this week’s Parasha, Moses sent 12 leaders into the land of Canaan on a fact-finding mission.  These leaders were to scout Canaan to discover the physical nature of the land and the feasibility of a military conquest and bring back a report to Moses and the Israelites.

“Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country.  See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.”  (Numbers 13:17–18)

Zin Valley-Negev Desert-Israel

The Zin Valley in the Negev Desert of Israel

The Effect of an Evil Report

After scouting out the land, they were impressed by the capacity of the land to sustain life, but 10 of the leaders believed that it would be impossible to conquer the land because the inhabitants were mighty.

Their “evil report” caused the people of Israel to become discouraged and fearful to go in and possess the land.

This provoked God’s wrath, and He condemned the Israelites to wander in the wilderness, one year for each day that the spies were in the land—a total of 40 years (Numbers 14:34).

After those 40 years, only two people from that generation entered the Promised Land: the two leaders who brought the good report, Joshua and Caleb.

They were allowed to enter the Promised Land because they trusted in the Lord and believed that with His help, the Jewish People could overcome all obstacles, defeat the giants, and take the land!

Faith Versus Fear

Orthodox Jewish man-prays-Western (Wailing) Wall-sidecurls-payot

An Orthodox Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall.  The sidecurls, called payot, which are worn by some in the Orthodox community, are based on the biblical injunction found in Leviticus 19:27 against shaving the corners of the head.

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrews 11:6)

It’s important that our faith prevail over fear!

We all need to trust God to do what He promised even though it seems impossible in the natural.

1 Corinthians 10:5 explains that God was not pleased with most of the Israelites, and for this reason, most of their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

After all, they had witnessed God’s power in bringing them out of Egypt, and they had eaten the heavenly manna and drank water from the rock.  They experienced the cloud and the pillar of fire guiding and protecting them.

They knew firsthand the greatness of the God of Israel, and yet they feared the military power of the Canaanites.

We certainly do not want to share this same fate!  We must learn from their mistakes so that we and our children will not repeat them, but rather pass quickly through our wilderness trials, cross over the Jordan and enter the Promised Land victorious.

Moses and the Messengers from Canaan-Giovanni Lanfranco

Moses and the Messengers from Canaan, by Giovanni Lanfranco

Complaining Versus Thankfulness

“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”  (Numbers 11:1)

In Numbers, we learn a life-saving lesson about complaining, an attitude that prevents us from moving forward.  We read that some of the Israelites complained, and were therefore destroyed.

In this Parasha reading, we see that after the Israelites heard the fearful report, they grumbled once again and considered going back to Egypt.

“If only we had died in Egypt!  Or in this desert!  Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?  Our wives and children will be taken as plunder.  Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  (Numbers 14:2–4)

Negativity is a dangerous and contagious disease.

Complaining is the opposite of thankfulness.  We can always find something to complain about, but the Word tells us to focus on whatever is good, right, true, and lovely.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

We can choose to complain or choose to find something to be thankful about.

Many of us at one point or another will have to battle ingratitude and fear.

Sometimes, we are so focused on what is going wrong or what we don’t have that we forget to be grateful for God’s mercy and all He has given us.

Sometimes, we fear the unknown.  We fear things won’t work out.  We wonder if God will really come through for us.

The battle is the most intense “in the middle,” when we’re in transition—when we’ve left where we’ve been and haven’t yet arrived at where we’re going to be.

young man-read-Torah-Western (Wailing) Wall-Jerusalem

A young man prepares to read from the Word of God as the Torah scroll is unrolled at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

Being Perfected in Love

“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  (1 John 4:18)

The Word of God says that perfect love casts out fear.

One aspect of love is being in control of our mouth and having a tongue that blesses and doesn’t curse.  Much depends on the words we speak: the power of death and life is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).

rabbi-Torah scroll-Ark

A rabbi removes the Torah scroll from the Ark, where it is kept safe.

Another aspect of love is being careful of the words to which we listen!

We can choose to listen to faith-filled messages from the Word of God, or we can listen to the evil reports of fearful, negative-minded neighbors, companions, or the media.

In the case of the 10 leaders who gave an evil report, their facts were accurate, but they presented them in a way that demoralized the people.

“… it does flow with milk and honey! …  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.”  (Numbers 13:27–28)

The three letter word but is a small word with a big meaning.  And its potential to destroy dreams is immense!

To understand what is behind this little word, it’s helpful to treat it as an acronym:  B.U.T.—Behold the Underlying Truth.

In other words, when we use the word but, we are revealing what we really believe and who we really trust.

pomegranates-12 scouts-Moses

To prove that the land was good and that it flowed with milk and honey, the 12 scouts brought back grapes, pomegranates and figs to Moses and the Israelites.

Joshua and Caleb also saw the giants, but they were unmoved because they inwardly kept their eyes fixed on God.

Likewise, we can focus on the size and strength of our enemy or on the size and strength of our God.

Instead of telling God how huge our enemies are, we should be telling our enemies how great and powerful our God is!

siddur-Jewish prayer book-Western (Wailing) Wall

An Orthodox Jewish man recites prayers from a siddur (Jewish prayer book) at the Western (Wailing) Wall.

Caleb rallied Moses and the Israelites to fulfill their destiny telling them that they should go and take possession of the land (Numbers 13:30).  He didn’t hesitate to do the will of God.

Procrastinating when God says, “Go forth,” may result in us talking ourselves out of doing the will of God.

Here is the difference between those who died in the wilderness and those who lived to enter the Promised Land:  Caleb and Joshua encouraged faith saying, “We can certainly do it.”  (Numbers 13:30) 

The 10 other tribal leaders, however, encouraged fear saying, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”  (Numbers 13:31)

There are basically two types of people: the “I think I can” people and the “I think I can’t” people.

We can choose to be a positive, faith-filled people who encourage others to be strong and of good courage, like Joshua and Caleb.

But beware of pessimistic, fearful, negative “kvetchers” (Yiddish for complainers).  They can destroy our faith!

Sometimes the only thing wrong with our life is that we’ve been spending too much time with people who are more than happy to tell us why we are not able.


Orthodox Jewish men walk along the ancient walls of Jerusalem.

Activating Our Faith

We are not powerless in the face of fear.  God has given us everything we need to defeat it.

Consider the following Scriptures, for example:

“For God gave us a Spirit who produces not timidity, but power, love and self-discipline.”  (2 Timothy 1:7) 

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31)

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4)

If we confess these Scriptures, and others like them, we will fill our hearts with faith.

Let the Word of God be a daily reminder to be strong and of good courage for the Lord our God is with us.  Baruch HaShem!  (Blessed be His name!)

Tower of David-Archaeological Gardens-Jerusalem

The Tower of David and the Archaeological Gardens in Jerusalem

Having a Memory Like David’s

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.”  (1 Samuel 17:36)

When you’re tempted to think that you can’t, think of David.

When David learned that Goliath was challenging the Israelite troops to provide a champion for a one-on-one battle with him, David told King Saul that he would fight him.

What was Saul’s response?  “You are not able….  You are only a boy.”  (1 Samuel 17:33)

David’s own brother accused him of acting out of ego for even inquiring about defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17:28).

Even worse than this, perhaps, was David’s father completely overlooking him when Samuel had asked to see all his sons so he could anoint one of them.


A shepherd with his sheep

How crushing would that be if your own father just left you out with the sheep when someone important like Samuel invited the family out for a very special ceremonial dinner?

None of that had any bearing whatsoever on David in the face of Goliath.

He had already experienced times of victory with God, and he called upon those memories to gird him with courage.

He told King Saul that Goliath was no bigger and no more dangerous than the bears and lions he had defeated with God’s help.

He was certain of his success before he engaged in battle because he knew the God of Israel, and he remembered how God had helped him.

Jewish men-siddurs-Jewish prayer books-Western (Wailing) Wall

Reciting prayers from the Jewish prayer book at the Western (Wailing) Wall

Building Up Our Faith

“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”  (Numbers 13:33)

Unlike the 10 spies, David did not see himself as a grasshopper.

On the other hand, in 2 Samuel 9:8, a man named Mephiboshet, whose name means “shameful thing,” called himself a “dead dog” instead of royalty—a grandson of King Saul.

Furthermore, he lived in Loh Davar, which literally means “no thing” in Hebrew.  What a message: a nobody, from nowhere.

It’s time for us to move from Loh Davar to the palace and dine at the King’s table.

We need to see ourselves as God’s segulah (special treasure), created in God’s image (carrying a spark of God’s divine presence—Shechinah—within each of us).

That’s what Joshua and Caleb had.  The Bible says they possessed a different spirit and followed God wholeheartedly (Numbers 14:24).

Even though they had suffered the hardship and oppression of Egypt, they chose to be overcomers through faith.

Ultra-orthodox-David's Tower

Ultra-orthodox Jewish men gaze over the Old City of Jerusalem from David’s Tower.

In these end times, the world will certainly give in to fear of financial collapse, plagues and terrorism, BUT just like Joshua and Caleb, we should possess a different spirit.

We can be confident in the Lord that all things are possible, and that He makes a distinction between His covenant children and those outside His protection.

Knowing God and remembering our history of successes with Him will increase that confidence.

How do we do that?

We can keep a memory box or scrapbook of times when God helped us, healed us, protected us, saved us, or provided for us.

As we review all the great things God has done for us, our faith will be built up.

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