Shelach-Lekha: Life Goes On

Immediately after the misguided incursion into Canaan (on the left), God goes right back to stipulating laws about sacrifice, sabbath, ritual fringes, etc.  “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land that I am about to give you . . .'” (Num 15:1-2)

We are quite accustomed to instructions beginning this way, but here, the sudden shift is jarring (take a look).  Ibn Ezra, with his “characteristic alertness to possibilities of continuity in disjunct texts” (Alter), says the juxtaposition is intended “to comfort the sons by letting them know that they would come into the land.”

Possibly–although you could also say that God is rubbing salt in the wounds of those who will never see the land.  But when I read it this time around, I felt neither consolation nor spite, but simply a return to a routine.  God just takes up where He left off legislating, as though nothing had happened.  Perhaps that’s for the best.  After all, the relationship between God and Israel, with Moses in the middle, is frayed considerably by this point in Numbers.  These strands of Torah are the rope that still binds them, and with it, they move on.

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