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Parashat Sh’lach L’cha (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

“If Adonai desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us,
a land that flows with milk and honey.” (Numbers 14:8)

Sh’lach L’cha tells the fateful story of the spies’ mission to Canaan, which results in the entire generation of the Exodus condemned to die in the wilderness (Num. 14:35). Hidden within this ancient story is a leadership parable with contemporary relevance.

Moses chooses one representative from each tribe. Each is “nasi bahem, an outstanding person in their midst.” (Num. 13:2) This means they are people of character and ability; people listen to them and follow. Moses charges them to learn what Canaan is like and if it is a good land (Num. 13:17-20). When the spies return, they describe the land and its inhabitants, as ordered. In the middle of their factual report, they insert a small, but fateful word: “Efes, but… (Num. 13.27-29) Now their factual report becomes an opinion of doubt, and because of the spies’ stature, the Israelites believe they are doomed. They rebel and confront Moses and Aaron, demanding a new leader to take them back to Egypt (Num. 13:3-4). God is prepared to destroy them instantly, but Moses intercedes (again!) and persuades God otherwise. (Num. 14:13-20).

Ten spies (except Caleb and Joshua) assume their personal opinions outweigh the facts of the matter. Moses, on the other hand, shows no bitterness or personal ambition in responding to an attack on his leadership: he continues to focus on the mission: preserving the brit, or covenant, and fulfilling it by bringing the Israelites into Canaan. Humility is the difference. Indeed, Moses, the greatest Biblical figure, is described as the most humble man on earth (Num. 12:3). Leadership invites a spotlight; humility helps leaders know where to focus it.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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