Stronger Than Whom?

Parashat Shlach Study Guide: Stronger Than Whom?

Text: Bemidbar 13:30-14:11

13:30 Then Caleb … said, “Let us surely go up and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we/He.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land “…all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 … we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

14:2 And all the children of Israel complained … 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? 11 Then the Lord said to Moshe: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?”

  • The spies said the land is unattainable, the people there being stronger than we/He. Based on the text, which of the 2 possible readings (we/He) do you think they meant?
  • Based on God’s reaction, how did God understand their words?

Commentary: Ramban on Bemidbar 13:29

… Then the spies spoke up again, explaining their words clearly, and said, we are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us, meaning: “Even if the people came out unto us into the field, we are not able to contest them in battle …”

  • How does Ramban read v.31: we or He?

Commentary: Rashi on Bemidbar 13:31

For they are stronger than we/He—They said this—if this were at all permitted to say so of God—with reference to the Omnipresent.

  • According to Rashi’s reading of the statement of the spies, what is the problem that will prevent them from conquering the land?
  • Compare this with Ramban’s reason, which do you find more compelling? Why?
  • Which reading do you think matches the reason for God’s anger?

Super-commentary* on Rashi: Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague) Bemidbar 13:31

*There are over 300 super-commentaries, explaining Rashi’s commentary.

“From we/He” cannot be referring to Israel … for to say so would suggest that Israel is strong as well, but they are merely stronger. That is not possible since they viewed themselves, in relation to the people in the land, as grasshoppers …

  • Rashi translates “stronger than He”. How does the Gur Aryeh commentary explain that it could not be referring to Israel (“From we”)?
  • For those who followed last week’s Torah Sparks questions: What image of the people at this stage is emerging in Rashi’s commentaries? How does this affect your reading?

See more: Parashat Shlach

Originally posted as part of the Conservative Yeshiva at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center’s Torah Sparks. Support Torah learning from the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center/Conservative Yeshiva for leaders and seekers around the world here.

Authors

  • Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

    Vered Hollander-Goldfarb teaches Tanach and Medieval Commentators at the Conservative Yeshiva and is a regular contributor to Torah Sparks, FJC’s weekly message on the weekly Torah portion. She received her M.A. in Judaic Studies and Tanach from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University and studied at Bar-Ilan University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Before making aliyah, Vered taught at Ramaz School and Stern College in New York.

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  • Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center — Conservative Yeshiva

    The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center (FJC) is a home in the heart of Jerusalem where leaders and seekers can find an authentic place in Jewish tradition to call their own. FJC offers opportunities to study, pray and explore within an egalitarian and inclusive setting, creating multiple pathways for finding personal and communal meaning.

    View all posts

Authors

  • Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

    Vered Hollander-Goldfarb teaches Tanach and Medieval Commentators at the Conservative Yeshiva and is a regular contributor to Torah Sparks, FJC’s weekly message on the weekly Torah portion. She received her M.A. in Judaic Studies and Tanach from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University and studied at Bar-Ilan University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Before making aliyah, Vered taught at Ramaz School and Stern College in New York.

  • Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center — Conservative Yeshiva

    The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center (FJC) is a home in the heart of Jerusalem where leaders and seekers can find an authentic place in Jewish tradition to call their own. FJC offers opportunities to study, pray and explore within an egalitarian and inclusive setting, creating multiple pathways for finding personal and communal meaning.

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