of the Weekly Reading: Shlach (outside Israel:
Torah: Num.13:1-15:41; Haftorah:
Avot - Chapter Three
Stats: Shlach Lecha , 4th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 37th overall, contains 2 positive mitzvot and 1 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 198 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 25th out of 54 in overall length.
Shlach begins by relating how Moshe
sent the 12 spies to explore the Promised Land. Ten of the spies returned with
an evil report which influenced a majority of the people. Because of the Jews'
apparent disbelief in G-d's ability to conquer the Land, the adult men of that
generation were decreed to perish in the desert during the next 38 years. Despite
the decree, a group of Jews defiantly attempted to enter the Holy Land but were
defeated by Amalekites and Canaanites. Next described are the details of meal
and dough offerings, and communal and individual sin offerings for committing
idolatry inadvertently. Next is the story of a man caught gathering sticks in
violation of Shabbos and his death as consequence. Last is the mitzvah to separate
challah from dough, to wear fringes (tsitsis) with a special strand of blue on
four cornered garments and not to be drawn after your heart and eyes.
"Every one a ruler ("nasi") among them."
"We were in our
own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." (13:33)
A MYSTICAL CHASSIDIC DISCOURSE (M:37-63 Shlach)
with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney
Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah,
as translated, condensed, and
annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Torah commanded us to set aside the challa, the portion to be given to
the Kohen; in order that by fulfilling this commandment the spiritual element
in the bread should be "awakened" and contribute its share to maintaining
our souls. Since the Kohen represents holiness, he is given this "holy"
part of the bread. Since, ideally, this challa is set aside when the bread
has not yet been baked but is merely dough, it is a method of refining our bread
by adding sanctity to it before it is even baked. The bread ,thereby, acts as
a refining agent for both body and soul. The first man, Adam, was considered as
the challa of the universe (Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 2). He was perfect
in mind and body until he sinned and caused the curse, and the Torah said concerning
the earth "It will sprout thorns and thistles for you,
by the sweat
of your brow will you eat bread." The net effect on the bread after challa
has been set aside and has been given to the Kohen, is for a person to
qualify for the blessing inherent in the verse, "bread will sustain man's
life" (Psalms 104:15).
(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)
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of the Torah's most dramatic episodes is found in this week's Torah portion. The
12 spies and their evil report of the Land of Israel: "They are a mighty
nation that dwells in the Land, and the cities are heavily fortified," they
The spies continued their attack, "We will not be able to conquer the people because they are stronger mimenu-than us" (13/31). The Levush explains that the word mimenu can also be pronounced mimeno-'than Him', referring to G-d. The spies inferred that G-d would be unable to conquer Israel. This claim seems surprising considering that all the Jews had witnessed G-d's miraculous victories over the Egyptians, and yet they were persuaded by the spies! What did the spies say to cause such doubt in G-d's abilities? They spoke of having seen the 'Nefilim' in Israel (13/33).
Who were the Nefilim that they instilled such
panic? Nefilim comes from the word 'to fall'. These Nefilim were
originally angels who 'fell' from Heaven to dwell among humans at the time of
Enosh, 235 years after creation of the world. They were extremely powerful angels
who came to the physical world in that corrupt era before the flood to prove that
temptation and evil could be resisted. Unfortunately, they fell further into spiritual
corruption than their mortal neighbors and eventually led rebellions against G-d.
The Jews understood that physical barriers were no obstacles for
Lubavitcher Rebbe explains the inner reason for the spies opposing the entry into
Israel. The desert represented a spiritually oriented lifestyle; Israel denoted
physical reality. The spies were the leaders of the Jews and were concerned for
the people's spiritual welfare. They saw how very lofty angels, the Nefilim,
had tried and failed to overcome the potent lure of materialism. These pure beings
'fell' from spiritual heights to the most base depths.
Yehoshua and Kalev recognized the mistake of the other spies and answered, "...do not fear the nation of the Land" (14/9). We are more capable than the angels. G-d has placed a G-dly soul within each Jew thereby giving us the ability not only to withstand the temptation of physicality but also to instill the world with spirituality. This is what Yehoshua and Kalev knew: that every Jew is not only strong enough to overcome the lowest physical elements but can even transform them to vessels for serving G-d. May each and every one of us succeed in making the factors of our life-including the smallest details-vehicles for holiness, and may this lead to the immediate redemption.
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter
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For all our insights for this parsha from last year