“Failing to Enter the Promised Land” – an Excerpt from Jewish Literature – Midrash on Sifrei Devarim (Third Century CE)

…If Israel had been meritorious, then in eleven days they would have entered Eretz Yisrael, but because they corrupted their ways, the L-rd stretched it into forty years, as it is written (Bamidbar 14:34) “According to the number of days that you spied out the land, forty days — a day for a year, a day for a year — shall you bear your sins.” R. Yehudah says: Now did it take them eleven days? Did it not take them only three days? As it is written (Ibid. 10:33) “And they traveled from the mountain of the L-rd a journey of three days.” (The intent is that) in three days Israel traveled an eleven-day distance. If Israel had been meritorious, they would have entered Eretz Yisrael in three days. As it is written (Ibid.) “And the ark of the covenant of the L-rd preceded them, a distance of three days to look out a resting place for them,” “a resting place” being Eretz Yisrael, as it is written (Devarim 12:9) “For you will not yet have come to the rest and to the inheritance that the L-rd your G-d gives you.”

They said to him: Was it an eleven-day distance? Was it not a forty-day distance, as it is written of Eliyahu (I Kings 19:8) “And he arose and ate and drank, and he walked on the strength of that meal for forty days and forty nights (until the mountain of G-d, Chorev”)? … R. B’na’ah says: If Israel had been meritorious, they would have entered Eretz Yisrael in one day, as it is written (Shemoth 13:4-5) “This day you go out, in the month of spring,” immediately (followed by) “And it shall be, when the L-rd brings you to the land of Canaan.” Abba Yossi b. Chanan says in the name of Cohein Bardela: If Israel had been meritorious, as soon as their horses’ hooves ascended from the sea, they would have entered Eretz Yisrael, as it is written (Devarim 1:21) “Go up (from the sea) and possess (the land) as the L-rd, the G-d of your fathers has spoken to you.” (Sifrei Devarim 2)

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2 COMMENTS

  1. You quote “And the ark of the covenant of the L-rd preceded them, a distance of three days to look out a resting place for them,” “a resting place” being Eretz Yisrael, as it is written (Devarim 12:9)” This is “From the mountain of the L-rd”. The fact that they were led by the ark necessitates it to be at least a year since leaving Egypt. It took them 50 days to reach “the mountain of the L-rd”. Regardless of how long (or short) the distance, G-d had much to teach them.

  2. After slavery in Egypt they they couldn’t handle freedom, neither could they face battles or obstacles so God took them not by the shortest direct route but along the coast to avoid trouble. The spies brought back a false report because they lacked confidence and couldn’t handle freedom or responsibility, that was why God decided the job would be for the next generation who could handle freedom & responsibility and change which the first generation couldn’t. See R. Sacks Covenant & Conversation Bemidbar

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