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Shelach Lecha – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Shelach Lecha, which is the title of the reading this week, actually translates as “send for yourself”. It is almost as if God is pointing out that the people now have to take up the task of moving from the slavery of Egypt to freedom in the land. The spies do this for forty days and the negative report of ten of the spies will result in forty years of wandering.

The response from God is immediate and direct.

According to the number of days which you toured the Land forty days, a day for each year, you will bear your iniquities for forty years.

Not for the first time, Moses has to plead with God to spare the people.

The Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people provoke Me? How much longer will they not believe in Me after all the signs I have performed in their midst?"

We hear Moses reminding God that

The Lord is slow to anger and abundantly kind, forgiving iniquity and transgression.
ייְהֹוָ֗ה אֶ֤רֶךְ אַפַּ֨יִם֙ וְרַב־חֶ֔סֶד נֹשֵׂ֥א עָוֹ֖ן וָפָ֑שׁ

These are the words that come down to us in the High Holy Day service together with the reply

I have forgiven them in accordance with your word.
סָלַ֖חְתִּי כִּדְבָרֶֽךָ

People see the same things, come to different opinions and give differing advice. Here there is a clear-cut position, what is sometimes called a zero-sum approach. One view is of approaching disaster; the other of opportunity: There is no compromise between the two sides. If we look at the text closely it is only Caleb who speaks up; Joshua stays silent.

Caleb silenced the people to Moses, and he said, "We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.

The choice was to trust in the covenant or to fear the endeavour that would be required. Sometimes it is only one person who has the courage and the vision to stand up and speak out.

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