Parshas Shelach lechah - teshuva for the chet ha'meraglim


The Medrash Rabbah at the beginning of this week’s sedrah says

...שאין לך חביב לפני הקב"ה כשליח שמשתלח לעשות מצוה ונותן נפשו כדי שיצלח בשליחתו ואין לך בני אדם שנשתלחו לעשות מצוה ונותנין נפשם להצליח בשליחותן כאותם שנים ששלח יהושע בן נון שנאמר (יהושע ב', א') וישלח יהושע בן נון מן השטים שנים.

מי היו שנו רבותינו אלו פנחס וכלב והלכו ונתנו נפשם והצליחו בשליחותן... וילכו ויבאו בית אשה זונה ושמה רחב, וישכבו שמה, עמדה וקבלן והרגיש בהן מלך יריחו ושמע שבאו לחפור את הארץ שנאמר ויאמר למלך יריחו לאמר, כיון שהלכו לבקשם מה עשתה רחב נטלה אותם להטמינם.

אמר לה פנחס אני כהן והכהנים נמשלו למלאכים שנאמר (מלאכי ב', ז') כי שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו כי מלאך ה' צבאות הוא, והמלאך מבקש נראה מבקש אינו נראה... אמר לה פנחס אני כהן ואיני צריך להטמין הטמינו לכלב חבירי ואני עומד לפניהן ואינן רואין אותי וכן עשתה שנאמר (יהושע ב', ד') ותקח האשה את שני האנשים, ותצפנם אין כתיב כאן אלא ותצפנו, הרי שלא הטמינו לפנחס אלא לכלב ללמדך כמה נתנו שני צדיקים אלו נפשם לעשות שליחותם אבל שלוחים ששלח משה היו רשעים מנין ממה שקרינו בענין שְׁלַח לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים

“There is none as beloved before Hashem as a שליח מצוה who is מוסר נפש in order to be successful in his שליחות, and there were no שלוחי מצוה who were מוסר נפש to be successful in their שליחות as פינחס and כלב who were sent by Yehoshua to spy out Yericho.

The king of Yericho heard that פינחס and כלב were in the house of רחב, and he sent soldiers to arrest them. רחב went to hide them in the bales of flax on the roof, however פינחס said to her, you do not need to hide me because I am a כהן and כהנים are compared to מלאכים who can make themselves invisible. This teaches you to what extent these two were מוסר נפש to be successful in their שליחות. However, the שליחי מצוה that Moshe sent were רשעים…”

  • ·       What is the connection between פינחס declining to be hidden, and his מסירות נפש for his שליחות? Since there was no difference in the outcome (of him being saved) between hiding behind the bales of flax and between making himself invisible, it would seem that his making himself invisible did not contribute to the success of his שליחות, and cannot be counted as מסירות נפש that his שליחות should succeed?


  • ·      We have a general rule that אין סומכין על הנס. Why did פינחס rely on becoming invisible and not follow the ordinary advice of hiding behind the bales of flax?


  • ·       Why does the comparison of כהנים to מלאכים extend to the ability for a כהן to make himself invisible?


The אשד הנחלים explains as follows:

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah

וַיִּשְׁלַח אֹתָם מֹשֶׁה מִמִּדְבַּר פָּארָן עַל פִּי ה' כֻּלָּם אֲנָשִׁים רָאשֵׁי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵמָּה

“And Moshe sent them from Midbar Paran by the word of Hashem, they were all men, the heads of the benei yisrael.”

Rashi says

"כולם אנשים" - כל אנשים שבמקרא לשון חשיבות, ואותה שעה כשרים היו

“Every time it says אנשים in the passuk, it signifies importance, because at that time, they were good people.”

However, the passuk later says

וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

“And they went and they came to Moshe and Aharon and to all of the benei yisrael.”

Rashi says on this passuk

"וילכו ויבואו" - (סוטה ל"ד) מהו וילכו להקיש הליכתן לביאתן מה ביאתן בעצה רעה אף הליכתן בעצה רעה

“It compares their going to their return, just as when they returned they had an evil council, so too when they went it was with an evil council.”

It seems from the apparent contradiction in Rashi that the עצה רעה that the מרגלים had when they went to spy out Eretz Yisrael was not a contradiction to their being כשרים at the same time, which is difficult to understand.

The אשד הנחלים explains that had the מרגלים gone to spy out Eretz Yisrael because they were really relying on Hashem to give them Eretz Yisrael, but because אין סומכין על הנס they needed to send spies, then that would have been acceptable.

The reason that the way that the benei yisrael sent מרגלים was not acceptable was because they assumed that they would rely on their own cleverness and strength to conquer Eretz Yisrael. This thinking rebounded on the מרגלים because indeed it was not possible על פי דרך הטבע to defeat the מלכי כנען, subsequently the מרגלים lost their בטחון in Hashem and said (פרק י"ג, פסוק ל"א)

וְהָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר עָלוּ עִמּוֹ אָמְרוּ לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת אֶל הָעָם כִּי חָזָק הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ

And the men who went up with him said we cannot attack the people because they are stronger than him.

On which Rashi explains

"חזק הוא ממנו" - (במדבר רבה) כביכול כלפי מעלה אמרו

It was as if when the מרגלים said they are stronger than him, they were referring to Hashem.

Because the מרגלים had secretly been relying on their own strength to defeat the מלכי כנען, and because they realised this was impossible, they gave up hope and said that it would not even be possible for Hashem to help them win.

When פינחס and כלב went to spy out Yericho, they remembered the lesson from the חטא of the מרגלים, and did not go on their own behest, but simply as שלוחים not only of Yehoshua, but also of Hashem, in order to fulfil the mitzva of conquering Eretz Yisrael על פי דרך הטבע.

פינחס was able to make himself invisible like a מלאך, because just as a מלאך does not have its own will, but exists purely to fulfil the שליחות of Hashem for which it was created, so too פינחס reached a מדרגה on which he felt that his entire existence was only to fulfil the שליחות of Hashem on which he had been sent.

By declining to be hidden from the soldiers, פינחס demonstrated that he and the benei yisrael had nothing to fear, as long as their intentions in conquering Eretz Yisrael were purely to be able to fulfil the מצות that can only be kept completely in Eretz Yisrael.

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