Shabbat Parashat Shelach| 5763
The First ExileHarav Yosef Carmel
The story of the spies is retold in short in Tehillim 106:24-27. The first three p’sukim add flavor and perspective to the known sin and punishment without significant additions. The final pasuk reads as follows: “[He lifted His hand] to cast down their offspring among the nations and spread them out among the lands.” Almost the same words are repeated in Yechezkel 20:23. But where do we see an exile taking place at that point in history?
We do find mention of a captive taken when the C’na’ani attacked (Bamidbar 21:1), but that was close to 40 years later, according to the context, and Rashi infers from the pasuk that only a single captive was taken. Another battle that was lost by its Israelite combatants involved the ma’apilim. Hashem decreed, as punishment for the sin of the spies, that that generation would not enter Eretz Yisrael. A group, which we call the ma’apilim, proceeded toward Eretz Yisrael. They were met by the C’na’ani and Amaleki, who pounded them until Chorma (Bamidbar 14:45). The Radak (Yechezkel, ibid.) claims that these two lost battles were actually one and the same and that the defeated Israelites were sold into bondage, as was common at the time. This explains the p’sukim in Tehillim and Yechezkel, that there was an exile as a result of the episode of the spies.
Is there any textual corroboration for the claim that these events, described separately, textually and chronologically, are actually the same? The answer is a resounding yes. Just as the Torah teaches halachot by connecting disjoint p’sukim with common words (gezeira shava), so does the Torah connect other narratives with similar hints.
The first mention of the defeat locates the battle’s end at Chorma. If one takes a look at the aftermath of the second narrative, he notices that the episode does not end with defeat. Rather, the rest of Bnei Yisrael regroup, do teshuva, and promise that if Hashem delivers the enemy into their hands, they will consecrate the enemy property to Hashem. The root of the consecration is cherem, and they called the place of their successful battle, Chorma, hints of a connection to the previous narrative. The second story refers to the route Bnei Yisrael took as “the path of atarim.” Unkelus understands “atarim” not as a proper noun but as “the path of spying,” apparently along the lines of “latur”, which refers to the spies. These are but two of the hints the Torah uses to inform us that the episode, which starts with the spies and the defeated ma’apilim, continued.It also included the first case of post-Egyptian, Jewish galut and told of recovery of the proper national direction and a victory highlighted by trust in and dedication to Hashem.
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