June 15, 2007

Today in Jewish History - Sivan 29

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In the Hebrew year 2448 (1312 BCE), Moses sent 12 men -- one from each tribe -- to scout out the Land of Israel. Their mission seemed rather innocuous: devise a strategy for battling the Canaanites and for settling 3 million Jews in the new land. In Israel, God showed the spies encouraging signs that the land is plentiful and rich -- e.g. clusters of grapes so enormous that eight men were needed to carry it (Numbers 13:23). God also made sure the spies encountered heavily fortified Canaanite cities -- which in fact is a sign of Canaanite weakness, since the truly powerful do not need to hide behind walls. Yet after 40 days, the spies came back and recommended against entering the land. The Jews accepted the report, and as a consequence, God said: Because you don't want to enter the land, then all Israelites will die out over the next 40 years in the desert, and only your children will enter the land. The spies delivered their negative report on the calendar day of Tisha B'Av. Hundreds of years later, the destruction of the First Temple occurred on Tisha B'Av, and 500 years after that, the Second Temple was also destroyed on Tisha B'Av. Today, Tisha B'Av is observed as a national day of mourning for the Jewish people.