Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shlach: why were the people destined to die in the desert?

Parshas Sh'lach

In 14:28-38, Hashem announces the punishment for the sin of the spies. - the spies themselves would die in a plague, and the people would be forced to wander the desert for 40 years (1 year per day of the spies trip through Israel), and the people would die in the desert and not enter the land - only their children would be able to.

I do not udnerstand what the people did so bad here to deserve the punishment they received. If one looks at the psukim, all we see is the spies returning, giving their report of the land and their recommendation, even a demand, that they refuse to enter the land.

The people then complained that Hashem brought them up just to kill them in the desert and maybe they should go back to Egypt.

Is this the first time the people complained? Is this the first time the people suggested they return to Egypt? They have been complaining non-stop since they left Egypt, constantly talking about how good they had it!

The punishment of the spies I understand. But the punishment of the people perplexes me. What did they do so bad to deserve what they got? Why is the complaining this time different than any other time?

No answer I have thought has been satisfactory, so if you can suggest anything, I would appreciate it....


yoni r. said...

I don't have a specific answer, but I think that various midrashim deal with that exact point (though not explicitly, as is the style of midrashim).

Joseph said...

Yes, indeed, this is the first time that they propose to depose Moshe and return to Egypt. All of their complaints up until this point were about the fact that they did not like their situation in the desert, not that they rejected their destination and wanted to go back.

Dan G said...

I think the punishment is especially harsh given that the people recieved "kol hatorah kulah" and new that the spies would be spies. Can you be punished for an act that has no free will?

Rafi G said...

I can't answer that. The question is what came first and all that. I don't know. This question would apply to anything and everything that happened after the Torah was given in parshas yisro.

Rafi G said...

somebody suggested to me what i think is a pretty good answer (similar to Joseph's above, but goes further).

He suggested - all the other times they complained, while it was wrong of them and at times they deserved to be punished because of it, at least the complaint had some legitimacy. They neded water. They needed food. They had nowhere to go with the sea upon them. They should have trusted in Hashem, but to a certain extent, the complaint had some legitimacy.

In this situation, there was nothign legitimate about it. They just did not want to go into Eretz Yisrael.