At the insistence of the Bnei Yisrael, and with G-d's permission, Moshe sends 12 scouts, one from each tribe, to investigate Canaan. Anticipating trouble, Moshe changes Hoshea's name to Yehoshua, expressing a prayer that G-d not let him fail in his mission. They return 40 days later, carrying unusually large fruit. When 10 of the 12 state that the people in Canaan are as formidable as the fruit, the men are discouraged. Calev and Yehoshua, the only two scouts still in favor of the invasion, try to bolster the people's spirit. The nation, however, decides that the Land is not worth the potentially fatal risks, and instead demands a return to Egypt. Moshe's fervent prayers save the nation from Heavenly annihilation. However, G-d declares that they must remain in the desert for 40 years until the men who wept at the scouts' false report pass away. A remorseful group rashly begins an invasion of the Land, based on G-d's original command. Moshe warns them not to proceed, but they ignore this and are massacred by the Amalekites and Canaanites.
G-d instructs Moshe concerning the offerings to be made when the Bnei
Yisrael will finally enter the Land. The people are commanded to remove challah, a gift for the kohanim, from their dough. The laws for an offering after an inadvertent sin, for an individual or a group, are explained. However, should someone blaspheme against G-d and be unrepentant, he will be cut off spiritually from his people. One man is found gathering wood on public property in violation of the laws of Shabbat and he is executed. The laws of tzitzit are taught. We recite the section about the tzitzit twice a day to remind ourselves of the Exodus.
Double Agents in a Minyan
This week’s Torah portion teaches the grave sin of the meraglim, the spies. Their evil report about Eretz Yisrael still echoes today, with the repercussions continuing to be felt. Of the twelve spies sent, only two remained loyal to Hashem: Yehoshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefuneh. The other ten chose to slander Eretz Yisrael, consequently suffering immediate and terrible deaths. Due to their vile report, the Jewish people was forced to remain in the desert an additional forty years, and eventually die out, before the children ultimately were allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.
Hashem called this rogues’ gallery of spies an eidah, literally a congregation. The gemara derives from this incident that the minimum requirement for a minyan isa quorum of ten men, since there were ten turncoat ‘double-agents’ who were contemptuously called a congregation.
If ten men can get together to conspire and hatch malevolent schemes, then ten men can assemble to form a congregation for devarim
shebekedusha, matters of holiness. This exegesis is duly codified in halacha, and all because of the dastardly deeds of ten misguided men.