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Shelach 5768

By: Rav Ari Shames

In the early 60's there was a lawsuit between the Carmel Mizrachi Wine Company and the Ministry of Tourism in Israel. The subject of the litigation was the use of a trademark symbol from our parsha. Both organizations had adopted the image of the spies carrying the grapes back to Moshe and the question was who had the right to use the symbol. (Actually the Carmel Mizrachi Wine Company was not the first to make use of the spies and the vine motif. In 1870 the Tepperberg family who lived right off of Rechov Chabad near the Midrasha started a winery named "Efrat" (the name of Calev Ben Yefuna's wife) and used the same spy picture as it's trademark. Mr. Tepperberg tried to sue the Carmel Company for the use of the symbol but felt that he could not compete with the Baron Rothschild). Why would anyone fight over the use of a picture of the spies? Why was the symbol chosen as a logo in the first place? In the case of the winery we can understand the logic in trying to portray the huge grapes, but why would the Ministry of Tourism choose to use the all-time worst visit to Israel as their logo? Conflicting Midrashim- Sour Grapes- Why did the spies bring the grapes back, what were they trying to say? The Gemara in Sota (34a) (quoted by Rashi) claims that the vines were so vast that they had to be placed on two poles and they were actually each held by four spies. The gemara goes on to say that there were two such vines requiring eight spies all together to schlep the grapes back. One additional spy carried a pomegranate and one carried a fig. Ten of the spies were bearing fruit and Yehoshua and Calev did not carry any of the fruit. The Gemara provides two options for why they were left out: either because they were "important" or because they were "not involved in the evil plot". According to this Midrash the purpose of bringing the fruit back was to demonstrate that the land was a dangerous place, a land that had such enormous produce surely must have giants to consume it. A few interesting points emerge from this Midrash. Firstly it is not clear where the split between the ten and the two happened. Did the spies already have bad intentions when they set off on the journey or were they affected by what they saw? The Midrash indicates that the lines had already been drawn at this point and the reports were already written, it is now simply a question of gathering evidence. It is quite clear that no one would fight over such a picture for their logo. It is interesting to note that none of the logos actually show eight spies carrying the grapes. Sweet Grapes- There is another fascinating Midrash that goes in a different direction. Calev meets the other spies in the vineyard and draws his sword and gives them an ultimatum. He says that they must take the produce with them or he will "kill them or be killed by them". Clearly this Midrash sees the fruit as an attempt to convince the people of the fertility of the land. Calev risks his very life in order to bring the fruit back. The linguistic impetus for this Midrash is the phrase "two of them took it on a pole". As opposed to the first Midrash that used other linguistic points to inflate the number of carriers, this midrash leaves it as only two, but which two? If we want to identify two out of the twelve spies it does not take much imagination to single out Yehosua and Calev as the grape bearers. So far we have seen two approaches as to who brought the grapes and therefore what the purpose of the sampling would be. The Zohar takes things a little further. According to the Zohar the vine is cut off by the spies as a whole and when they attempted to lift it they were unable to do so. They next tried to drag it along and were equally unsuccessful. Only when Yehoshua and Calev approached the task were they able to lift it and carry it. According to the Zohar it is not clear what the intention was for the cutting off of the branch, possibly each of them had their own agenda, however the produce of Eretz Yisrael has its own agenda as well. The ability to have the fruit of the land is dependant on your relationship with the land. The fruit "refused" to be moved by the ten spies and would not allow itself to be paraded around as a specimen in a circus. The fruit was however willing to be the proud representative of Eretz Yisrael in the trusted hands of Yehoshua and Calev. Interestingly enough both logos have only two spies bearing the poles. The pictures reflect the more positive Midrash (Carmel Mizrachi Wines) and the message that the land is good, very , very good. The logo of the Ministry of Tourism may also represent the challenge that the scene presents as described by the Zohar, when visiting (and living in) Eretz Yisrael we have a tremendous challenge. We are not asked to decide if we feel that it is a good place, that is a given. The challenge is, are we worthy of the experience. (By the way a compromise was reached and if you look carefully at the Carmel logo you will note that the spies are walking from left to right while in the Ministry of Tourism logo they face right to left!!) Shabbat Shalom Rav Shames

 

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