July 19, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Shelach

וַיָּשֻׁבוּ מִתּוּר הָאָרֶץ מִקֵּץ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם: וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל משֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל מִדְבַּר פָּארָן קָדֵשָׁה וַיָּשִׁיבוּ אֹתָם דָּבָר וְאֶת כָּל הָעֵדָה וַיַּרְאוּם אֶת פְּרִי הָאָרֶץ: וַיְסַפְּרוּ לוֹ וַיֹּאמְרוּ בָּאנוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר שְׁלַחְתָּנוּ וְגַם זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ הִוא וְזֶה פִּרְיָהּ: אֶפֶס כִּי עַז הָעָם הַיּשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ וְהֶעָרִים בְּצֻרוֹת גְּדֹלֹת מְאֹד וְגַם יְלִדֵי הָעֲנָק רָאִינוּ שָׁם: עֲמָלֵק יוֹשֵׁב בְּאֶרֶץ הַנֶּגֶב וְהַחִתִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהָאֱמֹרִי יוֹשֵׁב בָּהָר וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי יוֹשֵׁב עַל הַיָּם וְעַל יַד הַיַּרְדֵּן: וַיַּהַס כָּלֵב אֶת הָעָם אֶל משֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר עָלֹה נַעֲלֶה וְיָרַשְׁנוּ אֹתָהּ כִּי יָכוֹל נוּכַל לָהּ: וְהָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר עָלוּ עִמּוֹ אָמְרוּ לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת אֶל הָעָם כִּי חָזָק הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ: וַיֹּצִיאוּ דִּבַּת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר תָּרוּ אֹתָהּ אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ אֹכֶלֶת יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ הִוא וְכָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ בְתוֹכָהּ אַנְשֵׁי מִדּוֹת: (במדבר יג:כה-לג)

“They returned from spying the land, at the end of 40 days. They went and came to Moshe and Aharon and to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisroel (that came) to the desert of Paran, in Kadeish. They brought word back to them, and to the entire congregation, and they showed them the fruit of the land. They recounted to him, and they said: ‘We came into the land into which you sent us, and it indeed flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the nation is mighty, those who inhabit the land, and the cities are greatly fortified to the utmost, and we also saw the offspring of the giant over there. Amalek dwells in the southern part of the land, the Chiti, Yevusi and Emori dwell in the mountain and the Canaani dwell by the sea and next to the Yardein.’ Calev silenced the people to (hear about) Moshe, and he said: ‘We can surely go up (to the land) and we shall possess it for we are surely able to overcome it.’ But the men who went up with him said: “We are not able to go up against the nation, for they are more powerful than we.” They spread slander about the land that they had scouted to Bnei Yisroel, saying: ‘The land through which we have passed to scout it, is a land which consumes its inhabitants; and every one of the people we saw in it, are men of dimensions. There we saw the giants, the sons of the giants, of the Nephilim, and we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we appeared in their eyes,’” (Bamidbar 13:25-33).

When the Meraglim returned from their mission from spying on Eretz Yisroel, they gave a very negative report to dissuade Bnei Yisroel from listening to Moshe to enter Eretz Yisroel. However, a close look at the pesukim shows that their argument underwent a change. At first, the meraglim (spies) claimed that conquering the land would be impossible due to the great strength of its inhabitants, the presence of high and fortified walls surrounding the cities, as well as the surrounding hostile nations, such as Amalek.

Calev then counter-argued that Bnei Yisroel were strong enough to conquer the land and therefore, they should proceed as per order of Moshe. After that, the other spies added to their argument. Firstly, they said that the Canaanim are stronger than even Hashem! And secondly, they claimed that the land itself “devours its inhabitants.” In other words, the land itself posed inherent dangers or challenges that would ultimately lead to the destruction or downfall of those who inhabited it.

It is obvious that the meraglim had a clear objective right from the beginning—to portray Eretz Yisroel in a negative light in order to discourage Bnei Yisroel from entering. According to this, Zera Shimshon asks: Why did they choose to introduce the notion of the land devouring its inhabitants only after Calev expressed his viewpoint? What triggered them to add this to their argument?

Another question: The meraglim responded to Calev’s claim that they were capable of entering and seizing the land with two separate arguments and each one was written with its own introduction. The first argument was, “ … They said: ‘However, the nation is mighty, those who inhabit the land, and the cities are greatly fortified to the utmost … ’ After that, the second argument is written, “The ones who came back from spying on the land spoke slander about the land, saying that it eats the ones who live there.” This clear separation implies that these are entirely independent arguments, and not that one merely supports or adds to the other. What are these two arguments?

Zera Shimshon explains in light of the Zohar that writes that Moshe taught the meraglim the name of Hashem that when they think deeply about it, it has the power to neutralize the Canaanim if they act hostile towards them. This is alluded to in Calev’s words, “We can surely go up (to the land) and we shall possess it.” In Lashon HaKodesh, it is written, “Olow naalle veyorashnu owsah ki,” that the last letters of the last four words spell Hashem’s name “yud” “kay” “vav” “kay” backwards—alluding to the fact that through the name of Hashem, they can be saved from the Canaanim.

According to this, Zera Shimshon explains the argument between Calev and the other meraglim in the following way: Initially, the meraglim asserted that the inhabitants of the land were incredibly strong, making the conquest impossible. Calev countered this claim by emphasizing that despite their strength, Bnei Yisroel possessed the knowledge bestowed upon them by Moshe on how to utilize Hashem’s name to achieve victory over the Canaanim.

The meraglim argued that the inhabitants were even mightier than Hashem Himself! To support their claim, they recounted their experiences upon entering the land, where they witnessed people perishing wherever they went. They argued that there were two possible explanations for these deaths.

The first possibility was that Hashem orchestrated these deaths as a diversionary tactic, intending to draw attention away from themselves. If this was the reason, how could it be that Hashem is so mighty. If Hashem really possessed superior strength, there would be no need for such diversionary tactics; instead, Hashem could have directly confronted and defeated their enemies!

The second possibility proposed by the meraglim was that these deaths were merely coincidental and occurred naturally. If this were the case, the meraglim concluded that it still wasn’t worth it to enter Eretz Yisroel, since it is a land that consumed its inhabitants! In essence, the mention of the land devouring its inhabitants by the meraglim served as a means to reinforce their belief that even if Hashem were more powerful than their adversaries, it would still be unwise to enter the land. Therefore, they only used it after Calev revealed that Hashem is truly stronger than the Canaanim.

The truth is that they completely misinterpreted why wherever they went they saw people perishing. It is unquestionable that Hashem’s strength eclipses that of every nation in the world and the meraglim would have been protected from the Canaanim’s hostility by concentrating on Hashem’s name. Why then did Hashem distract the Canaanim instead of just facing them head on? The answer is that Hashem elected to shield the meraglim by redirecting the Canaanim’s focus in order to preserve the natural course of events as much as possible which is always Hashem’s first choice. It is only when there is no alternative does Hashem deviate from the world’s natural laws.

HaRav Shimshon Nachmani—author of Zera Shimshon lived in Italy—about 300 years ago, in the time of the Or HaChaim HaKodesh. The Chida writes that he was a great mekubal and wrote many sefarim—including sefarim about “practical Kabbalah”—and asked that all of his sefarim be buried after he passes away, except for Zera Shimshon and Niflaos Shimshon on Avos. HaRav Shimshon Nachmani had one child who died in his lifetime (hence the name “Zera Shimshon”) and in the preface, he promises for people who learn his sefarim after he dies, “ … And your eyes will see children and grandchildren like the offshoots of an olive tree around your tables, wise and understanding with houses filled with all manner of good things … and wealth and honor … ”

 

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