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Home » Family Life, Life Is Beautiful, Marriage, Sh'lach L'chah

Sh’lach: Never Stop Loving

Submitted by on June 13, 2012 – 2:41 pmNo Comment | 3,507 views


When you see the popular texting term LOL do you read Lots of love or Laugh out Loud?

When you hear that Jews were sentenced to forty years of wandering the desert for believing the terrible report about Israel from the ten spies, you have to wonder, should we Laugh out Loud because laughing is better than crying or is this somehow a demonstration of Lots of Divine Love? I mean forty years for a bad report. G-d must have been really upset. Or was he?

Miraculous Speed

A curious construct of a Biblical verse tells us that there was indeed Lots of Love in this punishment. The Torah explains that G-d came up with the number forty by using the ‘year per day’ formula. The spies spent forty days scouting the land thus the nation was punished for forty years, a year per day.

Yet the Torah doesn’t say a year for each day. Curiously the Torah has it reversed, a day for each year. “According to the number of days which you toured the Land, forty days, a day for each year.” [1] Wouldn’t a year for each day make more sense?

Rabbenu Bachye, one of the foremost medieval Biblical commentators, explained it thusly. When the Torah says “forty days, a day for each year,” it is not to explain why the punishment lasted for forty years, but why the mission lasted only forty days.

According to our sages the size of Israel is four-hundred by four-hundred Parsah. A Parsah is a distance that can be walked in 72 minutes. This means it would have taken twenty-eight-thousand-eight-hundred minutes or the equivalent of four-hundred-eighty hours to walk the length of Israel and four-hundred-eighty hours to walk its breadth.

Four-hundred-eighty hours amounts to twenty days. It should have taken the spies forty days just to traverse Israel’s length and breadth. It should have taken the same number of days to return and this doesn’t even take into account the time it would have taken to travel from the desert to Israel and back. How did they manage the entire journey in a mere forty days?

Our sages taught that G-d foresaw the negative report the spies would bring and knew this sin would cost the nation a full year of wandering for each day of the spies’ journey. To mitigate this punishment G-d shortened the spies’ journey considerably by miraculously expanding their steps. [2]

A Little Late

If you are a parent of a teen you are familiar with this approach. You tell your teen that he must be home by curfew or you will remove his I-pod privileges at the rate of one day for each hour of tardiness. There is no doubt in your mind that your son will late. There is also no doubt in your mind that you need to follow through or your son will never take you seriously again.

Yet you also know how much your son loves his I-pod and your heart goes out to him, what do you do? You employ G-d’s trick and deliberately postpone curfew hour. Of course you don’t tell him that in advance or he’ll come home later, but in your own mind you decide to give him an extra hour or two before you start docking his I-pod privileges.

The next morning you point out that curfew was at ten PM and he arrived home four hours late. By rights he should have lost I-pod privileges for four days, but you decided this one time that curfew would be set later. You retroactively adjust curfew by two hours and dock him only two days.

Will your teenage son appreciate your fairness? No. That’s nearly impossible. He’s a teenager. But you’ll know that you were fair and many years later he too will realize how loving and fair you were.

G-d and Us
G-d did something similar. When the Jews believed the negative report about Israel despite G-d’s wonderful promises they demonstrated a serious breach of trust and faith, which called for serious consequences. Loving encouragement wouldn’t have been useful at this juncture. Firm discipline was called for to jar the nation out of complacency and help them realize just how far they had strayed.

Yet, G-d wanted to shorten their suffering. He hastened the return of the spies, ending their journey after a mere forty days thereby mitigating the nation’s sentence. Did it seem like a kindness at the time? No not at all. At the time it seemed a terrible burden that would force them to wander in the wilderness. In hindsight, however, we can appreciate G-d’s love and kindness.

We now return to the verse we quoted earlier. “According to the number of days which you toured the Land forty days, a day for each year.”  This verse wasn’t intended to explain why the nation would wander for forty years, but to explain how the spies completed their journey in a mere forty days.

Essentially G-d was saying, I knew this would entail a punishment “according to the number of days which you toured the land” and therefore ensured that your journey would last only “forty days, a day for each year.” The words, a day for each year, rather than a year for each day now make perfect sense.

Never Stop Loving

This teaches us several important lessons. Firstly, G-d loves us at all times. He loves us when we sin. He loves us as He punishes. He loves us when we turn on Him He loves us even when we don’t love Him back. Even when we don’t believe in Him, He believes in us.[3]

The second lesson is to treat each other the way G-d treats us. never stop loving innerstreamThis doesn’t require forgiving and forgetting at all times. It simply requires that we never abandon a relationship only because something occurred to upset us. We deal with the pain and resolve the hurt, but underneath we never stop loving. If you will it, love can be unconditional. If you will it, love can be a constant.

It doesn’t make sense to abandon a friendship of decades or a marriage of years on account of a slight. Even if it’s real and inexcusable, even if you are offended and hurt, you can still love. Confront your loved one, share your pain, receive your apology and move on. Remember, this isn’t just anyone. This is your loved one. They might have slipped up and hurt you deeply, but they still love you and you love them too. Deal with the pain, and return to the business of loving.

[1] Numbers 14: 31.

[2] Vayikra Rabbah 16:11 and Tanchumah Shlach 8.

[3] The next verse, “I Hashem have spoken” fits the pattern. Each of G-d’s names denotes a Divine attribute. The name Hashem represents the attribute of compassion, which tells us that though this punishment seems harsh it is laced with Divine love and compassion. (see Or Hachayim ibid. who explain the compassion differently)

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