This week’s reading of Shlaḥ l’kha (Numbers 13-15) is unusual for focusing less on the Almighty’s relationship with the children of Israel than on the latter’s view of themselves—on what’s in their own heads. The title echoes that of Lekh l’kha (Genesis 12-17), where the Lord tells Abraham to leave his father’s house and his idol-worshipping native land and “go for yourself” to a promised land where the Lord will make him into a great nation. Our reading, analogously, begins with God commanding that select Israelites be sent from the desert encampment to scout out the promised land. But here is a crucial difference: shlaḥ l’kha means not “go for yourself” but “send for yourself.” The ensuing events reveal not what the Israelites actually see but who they think they are:
Why the Generation that Left Egypt Was Kept in the Desert
They looked inside themselves and saw only their own fear, not the confidence needed to make the land of Israel their own.