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Forgiveness vs. Consequences

After the disaster of the spies in parshas Shalach, Moshe prayed earnestly to save the Jewish nation from destruction and is finally answered (bamidbar 14:20, following Rashi):
"HaShem said, I have forgiven them in accordance with your arguments."
In the following three verses, however, HaShem uses the language of an oath to decree death in the wilderness on the generation that saw all of the miracles in Egypt and then tested Him these 10 times.  What happened?! Wasn't everything forgiven; and not by a mortal, but by HaShem Himself -- the One who is merciful, gracious, ever patient, abounding in loving kindness and truth.  Could there be a more glaring contradiction?  How does "I forgive you" go with "I am killing you"?  How can a loving G-d do that?

There is, of course, no contradiction.  The Jewish nation and that entire generation were forgiven; that entire generation died in the wilderness.  The seeming contradiction comes from our misunderstanding both of sin and of forgiveness.

In Moshe Rabbeinu's farewell speech to the Jewish people, he says (d'varim 10:12,13):
And now, Israel, what does HaShem your G-d want from you?  Only to revere HaShem, your G-d, to walk in His ways, to love Him, to server HaShem your G-d with all of your heart, mind, and soul.  To keep HaShem's commandments and statutes that I have commanded you on this day; to benefit you.
This also sounds like a contradiction!  The only thing HaShem wants from me?!?  That's quite a package; and the final words don't even seem to fit.  The Ramban, however, opens our eyes.  He explains that the verse is to be understood as: What is the only thing HaShem wants for you?  To benefit you.  Everything in the middle is nothing but a means to that end.  Keeping HaShem's commandments and statutes, revering Him and loving Him are all good (amazingly so) for us.  When we sin, it is ourselves we damage, not HaShem.  HaShem then hurts for us as a parent who has to watch his child make mistakes, thereby hurting himself, and then suffer through the cure.  Then He is there the whole time, holding us as we endure the pain of our self-inflicted injuries and the painful recovery.

To forgive is divine; so is suffering consequences.  Why did He let us hurt ourselves?  So we could learn and grow.  Growth is painful; but ultimately we become better for it.  More to the point, as the author of our own perfection we come closer to HaShem than we ever imagined -- which is the ultimate and only true Good.  How can a loving G-d do that?  The question would better be, "How could our loving G-d not do that?"  Baruch HaShem for forgiveness; Baruch HaShem for consequences.


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