The Torah's Pshat in P. Shlach is very straightforward - G-d commands Moses to send the spies. There are plenty of other places where Moses (and Bney Israel) are commanded using לך language (e.g. ועשו להם ציצית). So that can be viewed as a one-time Mitzvah.

However, based on how Moses presents it 40 years later it seems like G-d is not clear about it ("לְדַעְתְּךָ, אֲנִי אֵינִי מְצַוֶּה לְךָ, אִם תִּרְצֶה שְׁלַח").

In my humble view, G-d has to be clear about what's good or what's bad for the people, pretty much dichotomic - yes or no.

So, how G-d is to be understood in this commandment?


1 Answer 1


Rashi in Shlach 13:2 explains that Bnai Yisrael had approached Moshe because they were supposed to conquer as a normal way of war. Thus, they asked to send men to determine which parts were most appropriate for the tribes. This seemed proper to Moshe and he asked Hashem what he sould do. As Rashi says:

Send for yourself: According to your own understanding. I am not commanding you, but if you wish, you may send. Since the Israelites had come [to Moses] and said, “Let us send men ahead of us,” as it says, “All of you approached me…” (Deut. 1:22), Moses took counsel with the Shechinah . He [God] said, “I told them that it is good, as it says, ‘I will bring you up from the affliction of Egypt…’ (Exod. 3:17). By their lives! Now I will give them the opportunity to err through the words of the spies, so that they will not inherit it.” - [Midrash Tanchuma 5]

Rav Hirsch says:

For after all, with their entry into the Promised Land, the special extraordinary direct guidance of Hashem was to be more in the background, and the further life of the nation to have recourse to the more normal activities of the people themselves;

According to Seforno, the Divine order שלח לך of our verse only modifies the request of the people inasmuch as נשלחה אנשים לפנינו "let us send men", they asked permission to send men of their choice, whereupon Hashem commanded that Moshe was to choose and brief men from each of the tribes, and indeed those of the highest qualifications, for that mission.

  • I'm sorry, I didn't get your point. My intention was about G-d's answer, in my view, it can't be possibly "whatever". G-d is the source of Din - and His answer should be black or white, not "DIY".
    – Al Berko
    Jun 24, 2019 at 10:05
  • @AlBerko There are circumstances in which something is a matter of reshus. In this case the answer was that it was permissable but not required. The implication was that they should not have done so, but as long as the results were correct (which in the end they were not) the Bnai Yisrael would not be punished. Consider choosing a sheep or a goat for a korban nedavah (voluntary sacrifice). Jun 24, 2019 at 12:53

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