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    Caleb’s problem – Sh’lach L’cha

    The return of the spies, by Gustave Doré

    The story of the twelve spies is a tragedy. Apart from Joshua and Caleb, they all came back from the Promised Land with an unpromising report. It was a fertile land, they agreed, but the Israelites would never be able to conquer it.

    Caleb, however, had a different view. No sooner had they given their report than he tried to silence them, saying, “We can surely take possession of the land!”

    But all they had done was to carry out instructions. They were told to report on the strength of the Canaanite inhabitants and the nature of the land, and they did both things. Why cut their observations short? Why stop them speaking?

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe notes that they changed the order of the two items on which they were meant to report. Moses had told them to assess first the strength of the Canaanites and then the quality of the land; the purpose of the operation was to work out a strategy for the conquest of the country, because this was the land promised to them by God.

    The ten spies, however, first reported on the material benefits that the land would bring, and then they made their negative observations on the conquerability (or otherwise) of the country.

    Caleb had a truer order of priorities. The crucial thing to him was not how rich the land would make its inhabitants, but how to implement the Divine imperative to go up and settle the land.

    The important thing is to decide to do God’s will. Whether any material benefit results is a side issue. Even without milk and honey it is still God’s chosen land. The spiritual quality of living there is what matters.

    Maybe this explains why people who make Aliyah know they will not be as well off financially as they were in the Diaspora. But spiritually and culturally they will feel fulfilled.

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