Bits of Torah Truths, פרשת שלח לך, Parashat Shelach Lecha, Muttering against the little things in our Lives
This week we read the following, וידבר יהוה אל־משה ואל־אהרן לאמר 14:26 The LORD spoke further to Moses and Aaron, עד־מתי לעדה הרעה הזאת אשר המה מלינים עלי את־תלנות בני ישראל אשר המה מלינים עלי שמעתי 14:27 “How much longer shall that wicked community keep muttering against Me? Very well, I have heeded the incessant muttering of the Israelites against Me. אמר אלהם חי־אני נאם־יהוה אם־לא כאשר דברתם באזני כן אעשה לכם 14:28 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘I will do to you just as you have urged Me. במדבר הזה יפלו פגריכם וכל־פקדיכם לכל־מספרכם מבן עשרים שנה ומעלה אשר הלינתם עלי 14:29 In this very wilderness shall your carcasses drop. Of all of you who were recorded in your various lists from the age of twenty years up, you who have muttered against Me, אם־אתם תבאו אל־הארץ אשר נשאתי את־ידי לשכן אתכם בה כי אם־כלב בן־יפנה ויהושע בן־נון 14:30 not one shall enter the land in which I swore to settle you—save Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. וטפכם אשר אמרתם לבז יהיה והביאתי אתם וידעו את־הארץ אשר מאסתם בה 14:31 Your children who, you said, would be carried off—these will I allow to enter; they shall know the land that you have rejected. ופגריכם אתם יפלו במדבר הזה 14:32 But your carcasses shall drop in this wilderness, ובניכם יהיו רעים במדבר ארבעים שנה ונשאו את־זנותיכם עד־תם פגריכם במדבר 14:33 while your children roam the wilderness for forty years, suffering for your faithlessness, until the last of your carcasses is down in the wilderness. במספר הימים אשר־תרתם את־הארץ ארבעים יום יום לשנה יום לשנה תשאו את־עונתיכם ארבעים שנה וידעתם את־תנואתי 14:34 You shall bear your punishment for forty years, corresponding to the number of days—forty days—that you scouted the land: a year for each day. Thus you shall know what it means to thwart Me. The Lord sates, “Very well, I have heeded the incessant muttering of the Israelites against Me.” The people were complaining saying it would have been better to have died in the wilderness or in Egypt. What we find here is the people demonstrating their lack of faithfulness by grumbling all night long. Note how the Lord God Almighty also says He will answer their request to die. Sforno on Bamidbar / Numbers 14:33 Part 1 states “ונשאו את זנותיכם, suffering for your faithlessness against me when you had said: “let us appoint a leader to take us back to Egypt ” (verse 4).” What is most interesting here is how the children of this generation suffer as a result of the faithlessness of their parents (Bamidbar / Numbers 14:33). The Talmud states that none of the children were to die younger than 60 years old (Talmud Bavli Bava Batra 121b) because a child is characterized as being under 20 years of age. Those who were cursed to die due to grumbling against the Lord were 20 years and older. This also tells us how those who were 60 years old would enter into the Promised Land and overcome the enemy. Not only was the Lord going to raise up a faithful generation of children, we also see the sustaining power of God to empower His people to have the strength even at 60 years of age to overcome the enemy. Rashi on Bamidbar / Numbers 14:33 Part 1 states that “the moment they made the Golden Calf this decree entered the mind of God, but He waited for them (postponed their punishment) until their measure of sin should be full. This is the meaning of what is stated, (Exodus 32:34) ‘And in the day when I shall visit — viz., at the incident of the spies — I shall visit their sin (that of the Golden Calf) upon them.’” Notice how it is believed the Lord waits (postpones punishment) until the measure of sin is full. The point being made here is in complaining, we may not see the immediate consequences but in due time, the Scriptures say “you shall bear your iniquities” if one remains unrepentant and abstinent against God’s Word and His Ways. This leads to the understanding of the significance and importance of Teshuvah (Repentance) and how Teshuvah turns back God’s wrath. Solomon urges us here to tune in to the words of the Torah and to tune out to extraneous matters. Rabbeinu Bahya on Devarim / Devarim, 7:12 states,
Rabbeinu Bahya on Devarim / Devarim, Chapter 7:12
“When saying שמרם בתוך לבבך, “guard them inside your heart,” this refers not so much to the text of the commandments as to their essence. Something buried inside a person’s heart and constantly guarded is not subject to being forgotten. This is why we must guard Torah text as well as essence in our hearts so that we are not in danger of forgetting them. Solomon provides a reason why he considers this so essential, namely that Torah essence is equivalent to life itself for all those who have once found them. Torah (text) and the commandments between them are healing for both body and soul.”
This is the importance of remembering the Lord, His promises, and His ways. The rabbis speak of getting God’s Word into our hearts. It isn’t just about memorization. There is something more here Rabbeinu Bahya is speaking of that he calls “the essence of the Torah” that is in our hearts. This Word of God has the effect of changing us at a core level that is essential for the life of God’s people. This change that occurs on the inside is what Paul writes about as being a new creation. This is what the rabbis say is the Torah essence, which is equivalent to life itself for all those who have found them. God’s Word and His ways are healing to both the body and the soul just as David said in his Tehillim / Psalms 31:20 How abundant is the good that You have in store for those who fear You, that You do in the full view of men for those who take refuge in You. (NASB) When tempted to flee the pressures of life, the Scriptures call us to hide ourselves in the Lord God Almighty. Only God can offer true refuge from life’s dangers and the misery of our sin. Taking refuge in God does not always mean immediate escape from pain and suffering. But because the Lord is enthroned above, he is in control and unperturbed by the apparent chaos on earth. This doesn’t mean that he is unconcerned with human affairs. It merely means that God is not panicking (Tehillim / Psalm 2:4) and that He is carrying out his perfect plan. In these things we can rest assured the Lord God has a plan for our lives. In these things we hope and we remain faithful to seek the Lord, His Messiah, and His Righteousness.