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Steinsaltz

And they went and they came” (Numbers 13:25–26). Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: This verse likens their going to their coming. Just as their coming back was with wicked counsel, so too, their going to Eretz Yisrael was with wicked counsel.

The Torah states: “And they told him, and said: We came to the land to which you sent us, and it also flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27), and then it is written: “However the people that dwell in the land are fierce” (Numbers 13:28). Why did the spies praise the land and then slander it? Rabbi Yoḥanan says three statements in the name of Rabbi Meir, represented by the mnemonic device: Truth, alone, borrowing. The first statement answers this question: Any slander that does not begin with a truthful statement ultimately does not stand, i.e., it is not accepted by others.

The verse states: “And Caleb stilled [vayyahas] the people toward Moses” (Numbers 13:30). Rabba says: This means that he persuaded them [hesitan] with his words. Vayyahas and hesitan share the same root in Hebrew.

How did he do so? Joshua began to address the people, and as he was speaking they said to him: Should this person, who has a severed head, as he has no children, speak to the people about entering Eretz Yisrael?

Caleb said to himself: If I speak they will also say something about me and stop me from speaking. He began to speak and said to them: And is this the only thing that the son of Amram, Moses, has done to us? They thought that he wanted to relate something to the discredit of Moses, and they were silent.

He then said to them: He took us out of Egypt, and split the sea for us, and fed us the manna. If he says to us: Build ladders and climb to the heavens, should we not listen to him? “We should go up at once,” even to the heavens, “and possess it” (Numbers 13:30).

The verses continue: “But the men that went up with him said: We are not able to go up against the people; as they are stronger than us” (Numbers 13:31). Rabbi Ḥanina bar Pappa says: The spies said a serious statement at that moment. When they said: “They are stronger,” do not read the phrase as: Stronger than us [mimmennu], but rather read it as: Stronger than Him [mimmennu], meaning that even the Homeowner, God, is unable to remove His belongings from there, as it were. The spies were speaking heresy and claiming that the Canaanites were stronger than God Himself.

The spies said: “It is a land that consumes its inhabitants” (Numbers 13:32). Rava taught: The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: I intended the land to appear to consume its inhabitants for their own good, but they considered this proof that the land was bad. I intended it for their good by causing many people to die there so that anywhere that the spies arrived, the most important of them died, so that the Canaanites would be preoccupied with mourning and would not inquire about them. And there are those who say that God caused Job to die at that time, and everyone in Canaan was preoccupied with his eulogy, and did not pay attention to the spies. However, the spies considered this proof that the land was bad and said: “It is a land that consumes its inhabitants.”

The spies said: “And we were like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so were we in their eyes” (Numbers 13:33). Rav Mesharshiyya says: The spies were liars. Granted, to say: “We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes,” is well, but to say: “And so were we in their eyes,” from where could they have known this?

The Gemara responds: But that is not so, as when the Canaanites were having the mourners’ meal, they had the meal beneath cedar trees, and when the spies saw them they climbed up the trees and sat in them. From there they heard the Canaanites saying: We see people who look like grasshoppers in the trees.

The verse states: “And all the congregation lifted up their voice and cried” (Numbers 14:1). Rabba says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says: That day was the eve of the Ninth of Av, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, said: On that day they wept a gratuitous weeping, so I will establish that day for them as a day of weeping for the future generations.

The verse states: “But all the congregation bade stone them with stones” (Numbers 14:10), and it is written immediately afterward: “When the glory of the Lord appeared in the Tent of Meeting” (Numbers 14:10). Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba says: This teaches that they took stones and threw them upward as if to throw them at God.

The verse states: “And those men who brought out an evil report of the land, died by the plague before the Lord” (Numbers 14:37). Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: This means that they died an unusual death. Rabbi Ḥanina bar Pappa says that Rabbi Sheila Ish Kefar Temarta taught: This teaches that their tongues were stretched out from their mouths and fell upon their navels, and worms were crawling out of their tongues and entering their navels, and worms were likewise coming out of their navels and entering their tongues. This is the painful death that they suffered. And Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak says: They died of diphtheria, which causes one to choke to death.

§ The Gemara returns to discuss the entry of the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael. And once the last one of the Jewish people ascended out of the Jordan, the water returned to its place, as it is stated: “And it came to pass, as the priests that bore the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord came up out of the midst of the Jordan, as soon as the soles of the priests’ feet were drawn up unto the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks, as it had before” (Joshua 4:18). The Gemara understands that the priests who carried the Ark stood in the water until all of the Jewish people passed through the Jordan. Once all the Jewish people had reached the other side of the Jordan, the priests stepped back from the water and the Jordan returned to its natural state.

It follows that the Ark and its bearers and the priests were on one side of the Jordan, the east side, and the rest of the Jewish people were on the other side, the west side. Subsequently, the Ark carried its bearers in the air and crossed the Jordan, as it is stated: “When all the people were completely passed over, the Ark of the Lord passed on, and the priests, before the people” (Joshua 4:11).

And over this matter Uzzah was punished for not taking proper care of the Ark, as it is stated: “And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put forth his hand to hold the Ark; for the oxen stumbled” (I Chronicles 13:9). The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: Uzzah, the Ark carried its bearers when it crossed the Jordan; all the more so is it not clear that it can carry itself?

§ The verse states: “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error [hashal]” (II Samuel 6:7). Rabbi Yoḥanan and Rabbi Elazar disagreed over the interpretation of this verse. One says: God smote him for his forgetfulness [shalo], because he did not remember that the Ark can carry itself. And one says: God smote him because he lifted the edges [shulayyim] of his garment in front of the Ark and relieved himself in its presence.

The verse states: “And he died there with the Ark of God” (II Samuel 6:7). Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Uzzah entered the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “With the Ark of God.” Just as the Ark exists forever, so too, Uzzah entered the World-to-Come.

The verse states: “And David was displeased [vayyiḥar] because the Lord had broken forth upon Uzzah” (II Samuel 6:8). Rabbi Elazar says: Vayyiḥar means that his face changed colors and darkened like baked bread [ḥarara] from displeasure.

The Gemara questions this statement: If that is so, anywhere that the word vayyiḥar is written, including when it is referring to God, should it be interpreted this way as well? The Gemara answers: There, it is written: “And the anger of the Lord was kindled [vayyiḥar af ]” (II Samuel 6:7), whereas here, the anger [af ] is not written, but only vayyiḥar. Therefore it is interpreted differently.

Rava taught: For what reason was David punished with Uzzah’s death? He was punished because he called matters of Torah: Songs, as it is stated: “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” (Psalms 119:54).

The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: Matters of Torah are so difficult and demanding that it is written: “Will you set your eyes upon it? It is gone” (Proverbs 23:5), i.e., one whose eyes stray from the Torah even for a moment will forget it, and you call them songs? For this reason I will cause you to stumble in a matter that even schoolchildren know, as it is written with regard to the wagons brought to the Tabernacle: “And to the descendants of Kohath he did not give, because the service of the holy things belongs to them; they carry them upon their shoulders” (Numbers 7:9). And although the Ark clearly must be carried on people’s shoulders, David erred and brought it in a wagon.

§ When the Philistines returned the Ark during the period of Samuel, it is stated: “And He smote of the men of Beit Shemesh because they had gazed upon the Ark of the Lord” (I Samuel 6:19). The Gemara asks: Because they gazed upon it, God smote them? Why did their action warrant this punishment? Rabbi Abbahu and Rabbi Elazar disagreed with regard to the interpretation of the verse. One says that they were punished because they were reaping their crops and prostrating themselves at the same time; they did not stop working in reverence for the Ark. And one says that they also spoke denigrating words:

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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