Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” — Numbers 13:30
The Torah portion for this week is Shelach, which means “send,” from Numbers 13:1–15:41, and the Haftorah is from Joshua 2:1–24.
I heard a story about a young boy on an airplane who happened to be sitting next to a seminary professor. The boy was a diligent Sunday school student, and he was in the middle of reading a take-home newsletter. The professor, noticing the boy’s choice of literature, decided to engage the boy in conversation. He said, “Son, if you can tell me one thing that God can do, I’ll give you a big, shiny apple.” The boy thought for a minute and replied, “Mister, if you can tell me something that God can’t do, I’ll give you a whole barrel of apples!”
Those who know God know that He can do anything.
However, tragically, this Torah portion is about a group of men who doubted God’s ability. These weren’t ordinary men, either. These were the leaders of the Israelites, learned and spiritual. Yet, for whatever reason, 10 out of these 12 men who were sent to scout out the Promised Land came back with a bad report, convinced that the Israelites would not be able to conquer the land promised to them. They reported to the people, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31).
In contrast, two men – Joshua and Caleb – believed in God’s promise. It didn’t matter how things looked — if God said it could be done then it could be done. Caleb spoke out against the 10 spies spreading fear and terror among the Israelites and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (v. 30).
According to Jewish tradition, Caleb told the people that even if the land were in heaven and Moses (at God’s direction) told them to “make ladders and climb up to the land” then the people should listen because whatever Moses commanded them to do, they would surely accomplish.
Where did Caleb get this idea about climbing up to heaven in order to reach the Holy Land? In Deuteronomy 1:28 we read that the spies described the cities in Canaan as being “large, with walls up to the sky.” This is what inspired Caleb to say that even if the walls of the cities truly reached the heavens, they would still be conquerable because God, through Moses, had said so.
I want to encourage us all to have that same unwavering faith that Caleb displayed. When God has laid something on our heart that we know we must do, don’t be afraid of the walls that stand in the way. There isn’t anything that God can’t do, and with His help, we can scale any wall.
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With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President