Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The juxtaposition of sending scouts to Miriam's leprosy

At the start of Shelach, Rashi explain the reason for the juxtaposition of parshiyos:

"Send out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel. You shall send one man each for his father's tribe; each one shall be a chieftain in their midst."ב. שְׁלַח לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים וְיָתֻרוּ אֶת אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לְמַטֵּה אֲבֹתָיו תִּשְׁלָחוּ כֹּל נָשִׂיא בָהֶם:
Send for yourself men: Why is the section dealing with the spies juxtaposed with the section dealing with Miriam? Because she was punished over matters of slander, for speaking against her brother, and these wicked people witnessed [it], but did not learn their lesson. — [Midrash Tanchuma Shelach 5]שלח לך אנשים: למה נסמכה פרשת מרגלים לפרשת מרים, לפי שלקתה על עסקי דבה שדברה באחיה, ורשעים הללו ראו ולא לקחו מוסר:

We can see this in Midrash Tanchuma here:

דבר אחר: 
שלח לך אנשיםמה כתיב למעלה מן העניין? 
ותדבר מרים ואהרן במשה (במ' יב א). 
ואחרי כן, שלח לך אנשים. 
זה שאמר הכתוב: לא ידעו ולא יבינו כי טח מראות עיניהם מהשכל לבותם (ישע' מד יח). 

מה ראה לומר אחר מעשה מרים שלח לך אנשים?
אלא שהיה צפוי לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא, שיהיו באין ואומרין לשון הרע על הארץ. 
אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: לא יהיה להם פתחון פה לומר, לא היינו יודעים עונש של לשון הרע מה הוא. לפיכך סמך הקדוש ברוך הוא העניין הזה לזה, כדי שידעו הכל עונשו של לשון הרע, שאם בקשו לומר לשון הרע, יהו מסתכלין מה נעשה במרים. אף על פי כן לא רצו ללמוד. לכך נאמר: לא ידעו ולא יבינו. 
לכך כתב הקדוש ברוך הוא שלוח המרגלים אחר מעשה מרים. הוי, לא ידעו ולא יבינו, כי טח מראות וגו'.

Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz, in Tiferes Yehonasan, after citing the pasuk and Rashi, writes:

"And the oylam asks what is this question, of why the juxtaposition? For in truth, the juxtaposition is such, that prior to this is written 'and they encamped in the wilderness of Paran', and from there, the scouts were sent. However, it appears in sefer Devarim,

'And all of you approached me and you said 'Let us send men before us' ', and in this as well the question of the oylam applies, why did they not send them prior to this, if it was in their mind to send?

But it appears that earlier, the Israelites thought that the scouts would slander Eretz Yisrael and did not with to send, for that reason. But after they saw Miriam punished because slander, such that certainly they would not lie in order to slander Eretz Yisrael, for the same thing would happen to all of them, both they and Miriam -- therefore they said just then, let us send scouts before us. And this is what Rashi explains, why the juxtaposition? And by this he meant, why did they wait until after the leprosy of Miriam. This is only to tell you that prior to this, they did not want to send, because they worried that it would come to slander. But now that they saw the destruction which would come to their souls, to see the harm to themselves, to any who would stand for falsehood and emptiness, so say things which they had not seen -- and not take mussar?! As a rhetorical question, for certainly they would do this, namely take mussar."

End quote from Tiferes Yehonasan.

Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz, zatza"l
I like the question of the oylam. It basically supplies its own obvious peshat-based answer for the juxtaposition, and then uses that to question the derasha.

However, I am not convinced by this rereading of Rashi. It supplements with too many additional facts, which are not mentioned in Rashi's source, Midrash Tanchuma. Tanchuma has Hashem knowing beforehand that the spies would sin, but makes no mention of the background of the bnei Yisrael even suspecting this. Nor does Tanchuma mention any such expectation on the part of klal Yisrael that now the scouts would not sin. And in opposition to reading the closing words of Rashi as a rhetorical question, the text of Rashi's source, the Tanchuma itself speaks of, and indeed darshens a pasuk, about the fact that the scouts did not listen, which makes it likely that in Rashi's channeling of the midrash, he also meant it as a straightforward statement.

I think the answer is more straightforward (but not necessarily as satisfying as a reread). This statement is meant to be homiletic. Yet, there are peshat reasons for the juxtaposition as well. But this is part of a genre of midrash which looks at juxtapositions and speaks to motivations and emotions of various actors. So, for instance, this is an opportunity to make a statement of the kind made by the juxtaposition of nazir and sotah -- he saw the dire effects of drunkenness and so swore off wine. And Aharon got the service of the menorah in Behaalotecha because of jealousy of the korbanot of the nesiim. And it is sparked at least in part by the sidra divisions as well. That it starts a sidra also is a likely factor in Rashi's decision to repeat the midrash here, rather than omitting it.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to point out that you call the work Tiferes Yehonasan and then afterward call it Nefesh Yehonasan. I think the latter needs to be corrected.

joshwaxman said...



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