The Secret of Impregnation
“The Secret of Impregnation”
Parshas Shelach is one of the most difficult parshiyos in the Torah because of the story about the sin of the spies. The men sent on this mission were not average people, but rather, they were the leaders of their tribes (Parshas Shelach, 13:3).
This fact brings us to a question. How could such great tzaddikim fall into the trap of the Yetzer Hara and commit such a terrible crime of speaking Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael when Hashem had promised the Avos that this fantastic land would be given to them (Parshas Vayeitzei, 28:13)?
Obviously, the test which presented itself to the Meraglim (spies) was a most difficult one to overcome because we find that Moshe was concerned that even Yehoshua would get caught up in it. This is why Moshe prayed on Yehoshua’s behalf that he not fall prey to the wicked council of the Meraglim (Parshas Shelach, 13:16; Rashi citing Sota, chap. 7, “Eilu Ne’emarin”, pg. 34b).
But this itself leads us to ask another question. Why did Moshe only pray on behalf of Yehoshua? If it was indeed such a difficult test, Moshe should have prayed on behalf of all the spies. Why didn’t he?
The Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1534 Jerusalem-1572 Tzefas; Sha’ar Hapesukim) and Reb Shmuel Vital (1598 Damascus-1677 Egypt; son of Reb Chaim Vital) say that Moshe did not daven that Yehoshua not speak Lashon Hara, just like Moshe did not daven that the other spies not speak Lashon Hara, because that is a matter of free choice, and each person has to make his own decision.
However, Moshe davened that the other spies not kill Yehoshua. The other spies wanted to kill Yehoshua because they all heard about the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad in last week’s parsha who said, “Moshe is going to die, and Yehoshua is going to bring the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael” (Parshas Beha’alosecha, 11:28, Rashi based on Sifri, 11:21).
Therefore, the other spies thought that Yehoshua’s enthusiasm of bringing the Jews into Eretz Yisrael was motivated by selfish political gain. They thought that Yehoshua wanted to enter into the Land so that he [Yehoshua] would become the next leader. They thought that Yehoshua craved that position of authority so much that he was willing to “bump off” Moshe Rabbenu in the process.
The “wicked council” of the spies was to have Yehoshua assassinated so that they could prevent the Jews from entering into the Land which would lengthen the life of Moshe Rabbenu.
The spies had no qualms with Kalev who also advocated for the Jews to enter into the Land because the spies understood that Kalev’s motives were altruistic. This is because even if they do enter into Eretz Yisrael, Kalev would not become the next leader. Since there was no personal gain for Kalev to enter into the Land, the other spied realized that he [Kalev] was motivated by pure intentions. Therefore, they did not want to kill Kalev.
The Arizal says that this approach helps us judge the other spies favorably. The other spies who wanted to kill Yehoshua and who spoke Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael were motivated to do so in order that Moshe Rabbenu would live longer. As long as they do not enter into the Land, the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad will not be fulfilled, meaning that Moshe would be able to continue living.
This explains why Moshe davened only on behalf of Yehoshua. It is because only Yehoshua was in a Makom Sakana (dangerous position). It was only Yehoshua whom the Meraglim wanted to kill. Therefore, Moshe davened to protect Yehoshua from being killed, and it worked.
The Maggid of Koznitz (Rabbi Yisrael Hopstien, 1737-1814, Poland; Avodas Yisrael) adds another layer of understanding to address why Moshe only prayed on behalf of Yehoshua. In Targum Yonasan (Parshas Shelach, 13:16) it says that Moshe noticed Yehoshua’s humility and therefore Moshe changed his name from Hoshea to Yehoshua. The connection between Yehoshua’s humility and his name change can be understood in the following way.
When the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad leaked out, Moshe witnessed Yehoshua’s reaction. Yehoshua’s reaction was, “My master Moshe, incarcerate them!” In other words, Yehoshua was outraged that Eldad and Meidad would say that Moshe would die. Yehoshua wanted Moshe to live so much that any mention of his death would be tantamount to treason, in Yehoshua’s eyes.
This is where Moshe detected Yehoshua’s humility. Moshe’s death would result in Yehoshua becoming the next leader. But since Yehoshua was so humble, he did not care about positions of leadership. The only thing that Yehoshua wanted wholeheartedly was for Moshe, his Rebbi Muvhak (primary Rabbi), to continue living, guiding, and teaching.
Yehoshua wanted Moshe to live so much that Moshe suspected that Yehoshua might be the best candidate to speak out against Eretz Yisrael just so that Moshe would go on living and leading. Since it was only Yehoshua who had such a close connection to Moshe, which might prompt him to speak Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael resulting in a harsh decree of wondering for forty years subsequently prolonging the life of Moshe, Moshe davened for him [Yehoshua] that he not fail in this way. Since it was Yehoshua who was most likely to speak Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael to prolong Moshe’s life, it was specifically Yehoshua who needed the prayers of Moshe.
The Shvilei Pinchas points out that the two approaches of the Maggid of Koznitz and the Arizal compliment each other because according to the Arizal, the spies wanted to kill Yehoshua and speak Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael in order to prolong Moshe Rabbenu’s life, and according to the Maggid of Koznitz Moshe was suspicious that Yehoshua would want to speak out against Eretz Yisrael to prolong Moshe’s life. Prolonging Moshe’s life is what these meforshim share in common. Yet, the spies were punished anyway because they went against what Hashem wanted.
According to this teaching of the Arizal we can understand how such great tzaddikim could fall into the trap of the Yetzer Hara and speak Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael. It is because their motivations came from a good place. Their purpose was to prolong the life of Moshe Rabbenu. They could not tolerate an existence without their Rebbi. One can start to see where justification could be made to remain in the Midbar.
Now that we have addressed the previous questions Al Pi Pshat (simplistically), we will now delve into a deeper understanding about why Moshe only prayed on behalf of Yehoshua Al Pi Sod (Kabbalistically). To do so, let us analyze the following verses from this week’s parsha.
There is a distinction between the verse which talks about the leader from the tribe of Ephraim (who was sent as a spy) as opposed to the verse which discusses the leader from the tribe of Menashe (who was sent as a spy).
With respect to Ephraim, the pasuk says, “For the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea, son of Nun” (Parshas Shelach, 13:8). In this verse, there is no mention of Yoseph. However, regarding the tribe of Menashe the verse says, “For the Tribe of Yoseph for the tribe of Menashe, Gadi, the son of Susi” (Parshas Shelach, 13:11). In this verse, Yoseph’s name is mentioned.
Now, if the Torah wants to remind us that Ephraim and Menashe come from Yoseph, Yoseph’s name should be mentioned by both of them, and if it is obvious that Ephraim and Menashe come from Yoseph, then Yoseph’s name need not be mentioned by either of them. But to mention Yoseph’s name by one of them and not the other is difficult to understand. Therefore, why is Yoseph’s name only mentioned together with the tribe of Menashe, and why is Yoseph’s name omitted from the tribe of Ephraim?
The Arizal says that when Moshe sent the spies, Hashem knew from the very beginning that the spies were going to sin. Therefore, in order to help the spies not to sin, Hashem sent the souls of the Shevatim B’nei Ya’akov Avinu (the souls of Ya’akov Avinu’s sons) to enter into the bodies of the Meraglim, with each soul entering into the spy from its tribe.
For example, the soul of Reuven ben Ya’akov Avinu entered into the body of the spy from the tribe of Reuven, and the soul of Shimon ben Ya’akov Avinu entered into the body of the spy from the tribe of Shimon, and so on. This process is called “Sod Ha-Ibur” (the secret of impregnation). This is a type of possession. Meaning that the Meraglim were impregnated with the souls of the Shevatim B’nei Ya’akov. This dose of spiritual energy of the Shevatim was meant to help assist the Meraglim by preventing them from sin.
This idea is hinted to in the pasuk, “Kulam Anashim Roshei B’nei Yisrael Heima” (they were all distinguished men, heads of the Children of Israel were they; Parshas Shelach, 13:3). The word “Roshei” means the “heads” and “roots” of the tribes. The heads and roots of the tribes were the sons of Ya’akov Avinu, and they were “B’nei Yisrael,” literally, the “sons of Yisrael Avinu (who was Ya’akov Avinu).”
The Arizal points out that since the tribe of Levi did not receive a portion of land in Eretz Yisrael (because God is their portion), Moshe did not send a representative from the tribe of Levi to spy out the Land. Yet, there were still twelve spies because the tribe of Yoseph broke into two tribes, Ephraim and Menashe.
This is another reason why Moshe prayed only on behalf Yehoshua. It is because every spy was impregnated with the soul of one of Ya’akov’s sons to assist him not to sin. However, Yehoshua, who came from the tribe of Ephraim, was not impregnated with the soul of Yoseph ben Ya’akov Avinu because the soul of Yoseph was already impregnated into the body of the leader of Menashe because Menashe was the first-born.
Since Yehoshua was the only one who did not receive assistance from any of the Shevatim’s souls, Moshe prayed on his [Yehoshua’s] behalf. Moshe’s prayer was supposed to supplement the absence of an additional soul.
This also explains why Yoseph’s name is only mentioned by the leader of the tribe of Menashe. This teaches us that Yoseph’s soul was present inside of that leader. However, since Yoseph’s soul did not enter into Yehoshua from the tribe of Ephraim, Yoseph’s name was omitted from the tribe of Ephraim to teach us this fact.
The Arizal adds what the prayer of Moshe Rabbenu was when he davened for Yehoshua. As we mentioned above, there was no spy sent from the tribe of Levi because Shevet Levi did not receive a portion of land in Eretz Yisrael. However, hypothetically speaking, if Moshe would have sent a representative from the tribe of Levi, it would have been Moshe himself because, as a Levite, Moshe was technically the leader of Shevet Levi. But again, since Shevet Levi received no portion of land in Eretz Yisrael, Levi’s soul did not possess Moshe Rabbenu.
Since Levi’s soul was not being used to impregnate anyone of the spies, Moshe davened that Levi’s soul should enter into Yehoshua. Moshe gave away, to Yehoshua, his own extra soul which was that of Levi’s. Moshe did this for Yehoshua because Yehoshua was his primary disciple and a person’s student is likened to his own child (Sanhedrin, chap. 2, “Kohen Gadol”, pg. 19b, Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini in the name of Rebbi Yochanan, based on Parshas Bamidbar, 3:1). Therefore, Moshe bequeathed his extra soul of Levi to Yehoshua.
The Shvilei Pinchas adds that this explains why Moshe changed Hoshea’s name into Yehoshua. By adding the letter yud to Hoshea, the Name “Ka” (spelled Yud – Hey) appears in Yehoshua’s name (Parshas Shelach, 13:16, Rashi, citing Sota, chap. 7, “Eilu Ne’emarin”, pg. 34b). The reason why the Name Ka of God appears in Yehoshua’s name is because the Name Ka is connected to Yehoshua. Let us see how right now.
The Name Ka is connected to Yehoshua because the soul of Levi ben Ya’akov Avinu now dwells inside of Yehoshua’s body, and the Name Ka is connected to Levi. This connection is based on the Mishna in Meseches Middos (chap. 2, “Har Habayis”, Mishna 5) and in Meseches Sukka (chap. 5, “Hachalil”, Mishna 4; pg. 51a-51b) which says that there were fifteen steps in the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) from the Ezras Nashim (women’s courtyard) to the Ezras Yisrael (the Israelite courtyard).
The Leviim (Levites) would stand on those fifteen steps and sing to God the fifteen Psalms called “Shir Hama’alos” (Songs of Ascent; Tehillim, chapters 120-134). They sang one song on each step.
The Ritva (Rabbi Yom Tov of Seville Spain, 1250-1330) on the Hagaddah Shel Pesach adds that those fifteen steps correspond to the fifteen stages that we go through on Leil Haseder (Passover night). This teaches us that just as the fifteen steps led to the Kodesh (Holy area) of the Beis Hamikdash, so can we climb to the highest levels during the Seder.
The number fifteen is being emphasized because it is the numerical value of God’s Name Ka. The meaning behind the Name Ka is based on the verse, “Ki b’Ka Hashem Tzur Olamim” (for with Ka Hashem fashioned the worlds; Yeshaya, 26:4). The worlds which Hashem fashioned with His Name Ka are Olam Haba which Hashem created with the letter Yud of Ka, and Olam Hazeh which Hashem created with the letter Hey of Ka (Menachos, chap. 3, “Hakometz Rabba”, pg. 29b, Rebbi Yehuda bar Rebbi Ilai).
Therefore, the number fifteen is highlighted (fifteen stairs, fifteen Shir Hama’alos, fifteen stages on Leil Haseder) because it teaches us that we are capable of drawing down kedusha (holiness) from Olam Haba which was created with the letter Yud, to Olam Hazeh which was created with the letter hey.
Therefore, says the Shvilei Pinchas, the Name Ka was added to Yehoshua’s name because it connected with the soul of Levi who dwelled inside of Yehoshua, because it was Levi [and his Shevet] who would stand on the fifteen stairs of the Beis Hamikdash and sing the fifteen Songs of Ascent.
Perhaps we could add that the Name Ka also connects to Yehoshua because he was sent on a mission to spy out the Land and bring the Jews into Eretz Yisrael. When the Jews would enter into the Land, they would be able to schlepp down the kedusha from Olam Haba created by the Yud, into Olam Hazeh created by the Hey, via the conduit called Eretz Yisrael. Eretz Yisrael is where Olam Haba and Olam Hazeh meet. Since it was Yehoshua’s job to connect Olam Hazeh to Olam Haba through Eretz Yisrael, the Name Ka was an appropriate addition to his name.
Now we are going to see what happened to the souls of the Shevatim after they entered into the Meraglim to help them.
The Arizal (Sha’ar Hagilgulim, preface, pg. 5a) says that there is a huge difference between a soul that comes back to this world as a gilgul (reincarnation) to rectify a sin it had committed in a previous life, as opposed to a soul which comes back into this world as a form of possession called Sod Ha-Ibur to help someone else overcome sin.
When a soul comes back to this world as a gilgul to fix a wrongdoing from a previous life, that soul enters into its new body at the time of birth, and it cannot leave that body until the time of death. That soul feels the pain and suffering that the person experiences and it feels the pain of the new body’s death.
However, when a soul comes back into this world as a form of possession to help someone else, it does not enter into the new body until it is necessary. The additional soul will stay in the body as long as the person behaves. If, however the person does not behave, the additional soul will leave the body right before the person sins so as to save itself from the contamination of sin.
Based on this, once the spies were about to say their Lashon Hara, the souls of the Shevatim who were inside of those Meraglim left their bodies and returned to Gan Eden (paradise) above so as not to become filthy with the Sin of the Spies.
This will explain the meaning of the verse, “Vayeilchu Vayavo-u (and they went and they came) to Moshe and to Aharon” (Parshas Shelach, 13:26). Apparently, the word “Vayeilchu” is superfluous because the pasuk right beforehand already said, “And they returned from spying out the Land” (Parshas Shelach, 13:25). Therefore, the next verse should have just said, “And they came (Vayavo-u) to Moshe and Aharon.” What is the meaning of this seeming extra word?
The Arizal says that the word “Vayeilchu” is talking about the souls of the Shevatim B’nei Ya’akov Avinu. The Shevatim’s souls left the bodies of the Meraglim and “went” back to Gan Eden Above. The next word “Vayavo-u” (and they came) refers to the Meraglim themselves who “came” to Moshe and Aharon to speak their Lashon Hara.
According to this approach of the Arizal, a certain contradiction in this week’s parsha can be resolved.
At the beginning of the story the pasuk says, “They were all Anashim” (distinguished men; Parshas Shelach, 13:3). Rashi says that whenever the Torah uses the word “Anashim” it carries with it a connotation of importance. This comes to teach us that at that moment (when they were being sent to spy out the Land) they were kosher, meaning, they were righteous.
However, when the spies came back from scouting out the Land, the verse says, “Vayeilchu Vayavo-u” (they went and they came; Parshas Shelach, 13:26). Rashi cites the Gemara in Sota (chap. 7, “Eilu Ne’emarin”, pg. 35a, Rebbi Yochanan in the name of Rebbi Shimon ben Yochai) which asks, “What is the meaning of the word ‘Vayeilchu?’” Apparently, the Gemara was bothered by the same question which the Arizal had asked above. The Gemara offers its own answer. The Gemara says that the word “Vayeilchu” was added next to the word “Vayavo-u” so that we should compare their “going out” (Vayeilchu) to their coming back (Vayavo-u). Just as their coming back was with evil intent, so was their going out with evil intent.
From this source we see that when the spies began their mission, they were not righteous. This seems to contradict the previous source which said that when the spies began their mission, they were righteous. So, will the real truth please stand up! Were the spies tzaddikim at the beginning of the story or not?
The Maor v’Shemesh (Rabbi Klonymus Kalman Halevi Epstien from Cracow, Poland, 1753-1825) answers this question by saying that according to the Arizal there is no contradiction whatsoever. At the beginning of the story when the verse called them Anashim and Rashi said that this meant that they were kosher, that was referring to the souls of the Shevatim that were inside of them.
However, towards the end of the story when the Gemara, based on the verse, said that they embarked on their mission with evil intent, it was referring to the Meraglim themselves.
According to this whole approach, Yoseph’s words to his brothers takes on new meaning. When the brothers first descended to Egypt to purchase food during the famine, Yoseph said to them, “You are Meraglim, to see the land’s nakedness have you come” (Parshas Miketz, 42:9).
Simplistically speaking, Yoseph accused them of being Meraglim to cause them pain in order to help them receive atonement for their sin of selling Yoseph. However, how could Yoseph not watch the sanctity of his mouth by uttering a lie? The truth was that they were not spies, and Yoseph knew that. So, how could Yoseph utter a sheker?
The Arizal says that Yoseph did not lie. Rather, Yoseph prophesied to them that one day they would become spies by possessing the Meraglim’s bodies in order to help assist them so that they should not come to sin.
In conclusion, the reason why the souls of Levi (who possessed Yehoshua) and Yehuda (who possessed Kalev) succeeded in preventing them from sinning, whereas the souls of the other Shevatim did not succeed in rescuing the other Meraglim from sinning was because Moshe had davened on behalf of Yehoshua, and Kalev davened for himself when he ran to Chevron and prostrated himself on the graves of the Avos in the Machpeila Cave (Sota, chap. 7, “Eilu Ne’emarin”, pg. 34b, based on Parshas Shelach, 13:22).
It was the power of their prayers, in addition to the souls of the Shevatim within them, which had the ability to overcome the challenges which faced them.
Therefore, practically speaking, one message which emerges from this approach of the Arizal would be to appreciate the Power of Prayer. Therefore, let us try to improve a little bit more in our davening. This could be done quantitatively by spending a little bit more time praying, or it can be achieved qualitatively by choosing to concentrate a little bit more on a given phrase or bracha.
Another way to improve on tefillah would be to focus on and increase our personal prayers when we speak to God in our own language throughout the day as we face all sorts of situations and challenges.
So, may we all be blessed with the magical power of prayer and thus benefit that Ka will protect us from all harm, and bring us all back to Eretz Yisrael where we will be greeted by Moshe, Yehoshua, Kalev, the Avos, and all of the Shevatim, where we will hear the holy Ascent Songs of the Leviim on the fifteen steps of the Beis Hamikdash.