Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #37: Shlach L’kha (Send on your behalf) B’midbar (Numbers) 13:1-15:41
Haftarah: Y’hoshua (Joshua) 2:1-24
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 3:7-19
The concept and reality of qualified and limited forgiveness is the focus of this week’s parashah. G-d agreed to bestow such a forgiveness for the sin of the 10 spies only because Moshe prayed to G-d on behalf of those who believed the report of the 10 spies over the power of G-d and His command to take the land. Numbers 14:1-4 describes the repeated whining and lack of faith in G-d’s promises exhibited by the Israelites. How quickly they believed rumors of their neighbors and kinsmen, just as our society feeds on such gossip (lashon hara). We must keep in mind that the wisdom of man and his ideas leads to death:
Proverbs 12:15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
Since the time of Babel, men believed they have a better or “revised” way of living and worshipping G-d to the exclusion of obedience to His Torah or fear of G-d. In the end, the outcome will be worse than that in Babel. G-d will have His day with those who think they can out-think Him. The sin of the spies is not unlike that of HaSatan. He wanted to usurp G-d’s authority. Do men not seek the same status today? It is very clear where the world stands as we observe that not only are abominations clearly stated in the Bible tolerated, they are now promoted and praised. Any overt opposition brings social condemnation and threats of profiling or discrimination. G-d is very clear in insisting that we be a people separated for His service and not part of our pagan society. Take care not to be taken in by intellectualism for its own sake, or the modern philosophy that we “are all one” and that there are to be no differences in our attitudes or behaviors. G-d is very clear that true believers defined by Yahshua Himself in the book of Romans (2 and 3; John chapter 14; and Revelation) are to be set apart, a people that are to set an example to the world for G-d’s Torah. Rather than becoming “tolerant and loving” of all mankind. Our knowledge should be used to glorify G-d according to His commands, rulings, and statutes. Knowledge without wisdom from above is nothing. Efforts to learn for our own aggrandizement is of no avail.
Recall the spies were sent by Moshe at G-d’s command. Unfortunately, because of their distortion of the truth and their lack of faith and trust in G-d, the entire generation was punished because the entire generation believed the spies over Kalev’s encouragement and admonishment to trust G-d and not rebel against Him (Num.13:30). They grumbled against Moshe and Aharon as G-d’s appointed leaders; wanted to appoint someone to take them back to Egypt that represents the sinful lifestyle, and stone both men. It appears that G-d chose to hold those over the age of 20 and older accountable to G-d. Those in this category would not enter the land. The younger ones, children, Joshua, and Kaleb were the only ones that would enter. (Num. 14:29-31). The rebellious generation was sentenced to death without reaching the land (being saved). This is a prophetic statement as are many within G-d’s Torah (Rev. 22:7,12-13; 18-19). Once saved always saved is not taught in the Bible.
The fact that only two adult men were to enter the land begs the question of whether Kalev was a Jew or Gentile. Num. 13:6 reads “from the tribe of Y’hudah, Kalev the son of Y’funeh.” If we take this sentence literally, there is no question he was Jewish. However, there are arguments on both sides about Kalev’s heritage. Let’s explore a couple of them.
Kalev’s father was Jephunneeh, a Kennezite. These people were descended from Kenez. Kenez was a son of Eliphaz who was one of Esau’s sons. The Kennezzites were among those tribes who had lived in Canaan who were to be displaced by the Israelites. But Kalev’s family had at some point joined themselves to the Jews in Egypt and had been faithful members of the covenant from that time forward. On the Jewish side of the argument, the Talmudic discussion clearly sides with the Torah that states he was from the tribe of Judah, though he is called “the Kenizzite” because his stepbrother (and later son- in- law) came from his mother’s second husband named Kenaz. To add to the mix is the fact that the word “Jew” (Yud Heh Vav Dalet Yud) pronounced “Y’hudah, comes from the root Yud Dalet Heh (to give thanks, laud, or praise). Therefore, it is not difficult to make the connection if Kalev was not an indigenous Jew. If he were a Gentile, he was grafted in through his obedience to and love for G-d that Yahshua describes in Romans chapter 2. That settles the argument in the eyes of G-d. So it is with any true believer (see Ezekiel 37).
According to one of the greatest rabbis of the Lubavitch movement, R. Menachem Mendel Shneerson, the spies were not afraid of failure. Rather, they were afraid if success. Let me explain and I think some of you will be able to personally relate to this concept.
The Israelites were eating manna provided by G-d on a daily basis and water was provided miraculously. They saw the cloud every day which was G-d leading the way and guiding them right before their eyes. They were camped around the Sanctuary. They were in continuous contact with the Glory of G-d. They had the opportunity to live in “G-d’s pocket every day. We know many of them died along the way because of their whining and complaining about food and other aspects of the Egyptian life from which they were delivered. Who in their right minds, would want to leave such a situation? What was going to happen when they finally entered the Land?
They would have to maintain a defense force and fight; create an economic system, farm, and become occupied with all of the mundane distractions that come from “living in the world” so to speak rather than “on the mountain.” Would G-d be as “obvious” and ‘available” to them as in the wilderness? In the wilderness, it was and is not hard to find G-d. IN the wilderness, they could occupy their time studying Torah. In the land, they would be one of many nations experiencing the same types of social and economic issues.
The spies were not afraid of failure. They were afraid of success. Our orthodox brethren teach that this mistake was the mistake of very holy men. They wanted to spend their lives in the closest possible proximity to God. What they did not understand was that God seeks, in the Hasidic phrase, “a dwelling in the lower worlds”. One of the great differences between Judaism and other religions is that while others seek to lift people to heaven, Judaism seeks to bring heaven down to earth. However, I submit there was a component of a lack of trust that G-d is with us no matter where we are. We cannot expect to stay “in His pocket or on the mountain” forever. We need to be in the world in order to build our trust and faith that he is faithful as He promised since the beginning. Yes, these spies who were holy men, doubted and feared, just as we do today when we are confronted with change.
God wanted the Israelites to create a model society where human beings were not treated as slaves, where rulers were not worshipped as demigods, where human dignity was respected, where law was impartially administered to rich and poor alike, where no one was destitute, no one was abandoned to isolation, no one was above the law and no realm of life was a morality-free zone. That requires a society, and a society needs a land. It requires an economy, an army, fields and flocks, labor and enterprise. This is the mission of a true believer, to set the example for a G-dly life.
Now back to our discussion on G-d’s partial forgiveness described in Num. 14:20-25.
Num. 14:20 reads “Adonai answered, ‘I have forgiven as you have asked.’” How did Moshe ask? Let’s read Num.14: 13-19: …when the Egyptians hear about this-[and they will,] because it was from among them that you, by your strength brought this people up- they will tell the people living in this land, They have heard that you, Adonai, are with this people; that you, Adonai, are seen face to face; that your cloud stands over them; that you go ahead of them in a column of cloud by day and a column of fire by night. If you kill off this people at a single stroke, then the nations that have heard of your reputation will say that the reason Adonai slaughtered this people in the desert is that he wasn’t able to bring them into the land which he swore to give them. So now, please, let Adonai’s power be as great as when you said’ Adonai is slow to anger, rich in grace, forgiving offenses and crimes; yet not exonerating the guilty, but causing the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be experienced by their children and even by the third and fourth generations.’ Please! Forgive the offense of this people according to the greatness of your grace, just as you have borne with this people from Egypt until now.”
Adonai answers in Num. 14:20-25. When G-d said, “I have forgiven,” He does not mean a complete forgiveness for the sinning generation. This level of forgiveness is a qualified forgiveness based on and limited to “as you have [Moshe] asked.” G-d’s forgiveness relates to the fact that, in spite of their sin, the nation of Israel-the next generation– will be brought by G-d into the Promised Land (future). Therefore G-d’s name cannot be desecrated by the Egyptians. On the other hand, the present generation will be killed out. For this generation there is no “eternal salvation” forgiveness. G-d accepted Moshe’s plea for forgiveness, but only to a certain degree. On one hand, He consented to have the next generation of the People of Israel enter the Land of Canaan, as He promised to Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Nevertheless, He exacted punishment from the generation that sinned. We have neither a sweeping once-saved-always-saved forgiveness of sin taught by Christian clergy, or a wholesale punishment. This is G-d’s morality. Another important point concerning this event is that G-d’s judgment had been enacted against a people that had no faith or trust in Him and blatantly defied his command to take the land. G-d tells Moshe to tell the people in no uncertain terms He is tired of their complaints and sins against Him. “Every single one of you who were included in the census over the age of twenty, you who have complained against me, will certainly not enter the land about which I raised my hand to swear that I would have you to live in it- except for Kalev, the son of Y’funeh and Y’hoshua the son of Nun” (Num. 14:28-35). Those who gave a false report died by a plague in the presence of Adonai. To make things worse, the people of Israel felt a sudden remorse after they learned of their fate, but did not act upon it until the next morning. This sounds like Pharaoh’s response when he asked Moshe to ask G-d to remove the frogs. The people ignored Moshe’s instruction not to go to the place Adonai promised and were promptly defeated. There is a point of no return just as there was with Pharaoh. In the future, the Rapture will occur ONE time. Those who are not raptured will go through the Tribulation. Those who are sealed will not be killed during this time (Rev. 7:3) but will serve as G-d’s witnesses to Judah. This will be one last chance to teshuvah (heartfelt, humble repentance) before reaching the point of no return. However, at this point, anyone siding with Yahshua will be martyred. Deut. 1:45 makes it very clear on this issue; “You repented and wept before G-d, but G-d did not listen to your cry and did not incline His ear toward you.” The time for repentance is now.
This parashah ends with the third paragraph of the Shema. Num. 15:37 is a stumbling block for many who call themselves “Torah observant.” The command to wear tzitziot through “all your generations” is just as valid as commands to follow the festival days. G-d goes the extra mile in telling us why we are to wear them. The tzitziot do serve as a reminder of who we are and how we are supposed to behave. There is much debate about how “B’nai” is translated. Suffice it to say that it can mean sons, children, or disciples. It is tru that only the men had four-cornered garments at the time this command was given, but there should be no argument that men and women can legitimately wear tzitziot attached to a kattan (four cornered garment worn either under regular shirts, or over dresses. We should also critically examine the command to wrap Tefillin as this is a physical command. This is to say we need to carefully examine our personal level of Torah observance for we are all lacking in one or more aspects of following the commands of G-d. Remember, we will be judged as we judge others (Matt. 7:1).
Haftarah: Y’hoshua 2:1-24
This week’s haftarah tells the story of the spies sent by Joshua to scout out Jericho, prior to the invasion of the Holy Land by the Israelites. This event is similar to the one ion our parashah. Joshua sent two spies to Jericho, where they stayed at an inn within the city walls, run by Rahab. The king discovered their presence and he sent for Rahab and asked her to turn the two men in. Rahab covered for the men telling the king they had already left. She actually hid them on her rooftop. Rahab told the men that the people in the city were afraid of the Israelites impending attack because they knew G-d was with them. She told them she knew G-d was going to give them the land. Rahab asked to be remembered and spared with her family when the Israelites attacked. She was told to tie a scarlet thread and hang it from her window. This would be a symbol that her home was a safe haven. She helped the men escape via a rope out her window and she told them how to hide if needed. The spies returned, and Rahab and her family were spared. We can see the similarity of the red thread in the window and the blood on the lentils of the doors during Pesach (Passover). Rahab was obedient as were the Israelites. Her home was symbolically covered by the blood of a Messiah that was yet to physically appear, but was already present.
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 3:7-19
This passage gives us New Testament confirmation of what G-d said and did in the parashah. There is little need for detailed explanation beyond the literal word. There is a point of no return. The Ruach confirms this fact. “Watch out brothers, so that there will not be in any one of you an evil heart lacking trust, which could lead you to apostatize (fall away) from the living G-d. Instead, keep exhorting each other every day, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you will become hardened by the deceit of sin. For we have become sharers in the Messiah, provided however, that we hold firmly to the conviction we began with, right through until the goal is reached” (Heb. 3:12-14). John 14:12 reads “Yes, indeed! I tell you that whosoever trusts in me will also do the works I do! John 14:15 reads “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” In John 15:9 Yahshua tells us that “If you keep my commands, you will stay in my love.” John 14:21 reads “Whoever has my commands and keeps them (7-fold witness in Revelation), is the one who loves me, and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him. “John 14:24 reads “Someone who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words.”
Moving to Heb. 3:18-19: And to whom was it that he swore that they would not enter his rest? those who were disobedient.” So, we see that they were unable to enter because of lack of trust. If by chance we need to define trust and validate the term as an action verb, Hebrews chapter 11 provides 18 examples I encourage you to read and contemplate for your additional understanding.
Rabbi Tamah Davis