A Torah Insight from the Chasam Sofer on Parshas Shelach


The Revealed and Inner Meanings of the Word שלח

שלח לך אנשים

Send forth men for yourself (13:2).

            As the Torah will relate (14:1), when the meraglim (spies) returned from Eretz Yisrael with their evil report, the people wept throughout the following night. The Gemara tells us that it was the night of Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av), and because the Jews wept needlessly on that night, Hashem established that night as a national night of mourning, for generations. The Beis HaMikdash was therefore destroyed on the ninth of Av (Taanis 29a).

            The word שלח, which is the first word of Hashem’s command to Moshe to send the meraglim, contains an allusion to the idea that sending the meraglim would lead to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

            In Parashas Va’eschanan (Devarim 4:25-28), Moshe warns the Jews that if they become overly comfortable in Eretz Yisrael and turn corrupt, this will cause them to be exiled and destroyed. He says that this will occur כי תוליד בנים ובני בנים ונושנתם בארץ, When you beget children and grandchildren and will have been long (ונושנתם) in the Land. The Gemara (Gittin 88a) teaches that the word ונושנתם alludes to when the Beis HaMikdash would be destroyed. Its gematria is 852, which indicates that 852 years after entering Eretz Yisrael, the Jews “will have been long” in the Land and will be exiled from it.[1]

            Now, the gematria of שלח is 338. However, there is another form of gematria based on spelling out each letter of the word — i.e., writing the letter ש as שי”ן, the letter ל as למ”ד, and the letter ח as חי”ת. This way of writing a word, with each of its letters spelled out, reveals the “hidden” content of the word, and the gematria of the word in this form offers insight into its inner meaning. Now, the gematria of שי”ן is 360, the gematria of למ”ד is 74, and the gematria of חי”ת is 418. If we add up the values of the three letters, the total gematria of the “hidden” form of the word שלח (360+74+418) equals 852. This is precisely the number of years alluded to by the gematria of ונושנתם! Thus, although according to the plain meaning of the word שלח, Hashem was instructing Moshe to send the meraglim, according to the inner meaning of the word, He was hinting at the terrible consequences that would result from their mission (Toras Moshe HaShalem, p. 52 ד”ה שלח לך אנשים).

[1] The Beis HaMikdash was actually destroyed 850 years after the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael. It was built 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt (see I Melachim, 6:1), and stood for 410 years (see Yoma 9a). Thus, the Destruction occurred 890 years after the Jews left Egypt. Since they entered Eretz Yisrael 40 years after the Exodus, the Destruction took place 850 years after they entered the Land. The Sages explain that Hashem brought the Destruction two years before the deadline indicated by ונושנתם, at a time when the Jews were not yet fully corrupt, so that they would be spared the complete destruction that the verse foretells (Gittin 88a; Rashi, Devarim 4:25).

In Memory of
R’ Yakov ben R’ Shmuel Yosef
and R’ Shimon ben R’ Moshe ע”ה 
© Copyright 2019 by MESORAH PUBLICATIONS, Ltd.

To download a printable copy, click here: Chasam Sofer – Shelach

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