Strengthening Ourselves

Dedicated to the memory of Louis Levine z”l, Baruch Aryeh ben Avraham Halevi, on his second Yahrzeit, 19th Sivan

In Parshat Shlach, Bamidbar 13:20 Moshe instructs the scouts “…Vehitchazaktem, strengthen your selves and take some fruit of the Land (of Israel). Those days were the days of the first ripening of the grapes”.

Why does Moshe tell the scouts to strengthen themselves before taking the fruit of the Land?

Chizkuni (Rabbi Chizkiya Ben Rabbi Manoach) says that they needed “chizuk”, to be strengthened, since it was the days of the first ripening of the grapes and guards would be watching over the vineyards.

In sentence 23, “They came to Nachal Eshkol (the wadi of the grape clusters), they cut off a branch and one cluster of grapes and carried it between two on a pole and they took some pomegranates and figs”.

The Gemara in Sotah 34a explains that the grapes were so large and heavy that eight men had to work together to carry just one cluster (balanced on two poles)!

Sforno comments that the C’naanim were surprised that the men thought that this type of grape cluster was new and miraculous since there were many large clusters of grapes in the Land which the C’naanim took for granted. When the C’naanim saw that this was a novelty, they called the place Nachal Eshkol.

According to Sforno, Moshe was convinced that even though the fruits would not yet be fully ripe, the size and taste of the fruits would attest to how wonderful the Land was.

If they brought back such beautiful fruits and the C’naanim didn’t even bother them (despite the fact that strange men were lugging back a huge cluster of grapes), then why did the scouts give a bad report about the Land of Israel when they returned to Moshe?

It all comes back to the word that Moshe told them before they left: “vehitchazaktem”, strengthen your selves. 

We can all find time to critique and criticize. However, we are better off spending our time on endeavors that will strengthen us. Rashi points out (13:22) that Calev went to Chevron in order to pray at Ma’arat HaMachpela (the cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs) that he would not be enticed by his companions to join in their design. When the Land was divided into portions, Calev was rewarded and merited to inherit Chevron.

Let’s focus our energies on strengthening ourselves!