Weekly Reading Insights: Sh'lach Lecha 5766

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Sh'lach Lecha (in Israel)
Beha'alotecha outside Israel

To be read on 21 Sivan 5766 (June 17)

Torah: Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haftorah: Joshua 2:1-24 (the two spies sent to Jericho)

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 3 in Israel (Chapter 2 outside of Israel)

Shelach Lecha is the 4th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 37th overall, and 25th out of 54 in overall length

Sh'lach (Numbers 13:1- 15:41) begins by relating how Moshe sent the 12 spies to explore the Promised Land. Ten of the spies subsequently gave an evil report which influenced a majority of the people. Because of the Jews apparent disbelief in G-ds ability to conquer the Land, the adult men of that generation were decreed to perish in the desert during the next 38 years (see the Book of our Heritage for a detailed account). Despite the decree, a group of Jews defiantly attempted to enter the Holy Land but were defeated by Amalekites and Canaanites. The next section describes 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. The Reading concludes with the mitzva to separate challah from dough, to wear fringes (tzitzis) with a special strand of blue on four cornered garments and not to be drawn after your heart and eyes.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:3766/Sh'lach)

Each of the names of G-d found in the Torah refers to a specific type of activity, as in G-d's response to Moses: "You wish to know My Name? According to My deeds I am called."
( Shemot Rabba 3:6) The name Havayah alludes to G-d's creation of the world, from the word "mehaveh", meaning "bring into being". (Note that some commentaries derive the name Havayah from "haya", "hoveh", "v'yih'yeh" - signifying past, present and future simultaneously, referring to the transcendence of G-d. However, in our context the former meaning is intended, as will become clear from the text.) The word "ayin" (meaning transcendent nothingness), however, refers to a level so lofty that it transcends any names.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:3766/Sh'lach)

Regarding the mystical significance of Caleb, the son of Yefuneh, I first found it written that the numerical value of "Calav, the son of [King] David" (Samuel II 3:3) is [53,] the same as the numerical value of [one of the spellings-out of] the name Havayah [plus the kolel].

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (O:3766/Sh'lach)

Or it is possible that the verse alludes to the [heavenly] princes above, for no nation falls unless its prince falls first, as it is written, "The Eternal will punish the host of the high heaven on high..." (Isaiah 24:21), and afterwards, "...on the kings of the earth upon the earth," and as is explained in the Book of Daniel. Thus, the verse is saying, "the power under whose protection the nations [in the land of Canaan] live is already removed, and 'the Eternal' Who lowered them 'is with us', therefore 'fear them not'." And thus the Rabbis said in Midrash Shir Hashirim: "And the shadows flee away": These are the princes of the nations and their angels, for they are the protection over the nations.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"The land is very, very good.. but do not rebel against G-d" [14:7-9]
We see here two contradictions: on the one hand the greatness of Eretz Yisrael and on the other hand the warning against rebellion against G-d. This is because Eretz Yisrael has the ability to help a person rise to great spiritual heights and reach high levels of holiness, but only on the condition that he works hard to attain these levels. But if 'the other side' (the evil inclination) gets the upper hand, it will be stronger than elsewhere and can pull a person down all the way.
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi of Svardon


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"Speak to the Israelites and have them make tzitzit (tassels) on the corners of their garments for all generations…" (Num.15:38)

The commandment is to attach the tzitzit to the four corners of the garment. The four corners hint at the gathering of the exiles at the time of redemption: "Gather us in from the four corners of the world to our land" (Amida Prayer). Through the keeping of the mitzva of tzitzit and in its wake the keeping of all 613 mitzvot, the final redemption will occur and all the Jewish People will be gather from the four corners of the world to Eretz Yisrael.

Pniney HaGeula

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:3766/Sh'lach)

In honor of the wedding of Sheina-Rachel (Weinstein) and Yehuda-Shmuel Tilles,
19 Sivan 5766

One of the Torah's most dramatic episodes is found in this week's Torah portion: the 12 Spies and the evil report on the Land of Israel - "They are a mighty nation that dwells in the Land, and the cities are heavily fortified" (Num. 13:28). There were two spies who opposed the other ten and spoke in defense of Israel and G-d. One of them, Caleb, responded that the Jews would indeed be able to conquer the Land. Rashi states that Caleb began to list many of G-d's miraculous deeds for the Jews - all to demonstrate that nothing can hinder G-d's will. The ten spies continued their attack: "We will not be able to conquer the people because they are stronger than us [in Hebrew, 'mimenu']" (Num. 13:31). The Levush explains that the word "mimenu" can also be pronounced "mimeno", meaning, "than Him" - referring to G-d. These spies inferred that G-d would be unable to conquer the Land of 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 these spies say to cause such doubt in G-d's abilities? They spoke of having seen the "nefilim" in Israel (Num. 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 Enoch, 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 G-d. However, these spiritually charged nefilim seemed to pose a real threat.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains the inner reason for these spies opposing the entry into Israel. The desert represented a spiritually oriented lifestyle; the Land of 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. A fortiori, the assumption was that if angels couldn't make it, how much more so we humans would not be able to pass the test, standing up against the odds of a physical existence in Israel.

In Israel the Jews would be compelled to work the land, engage in business, cook, sew, do laundry, etc. - time consuming mundane tasks they did not perform in the desert. The spies saw the desert as ideal for spiritual pursuit. Entering Israel and tending to physical matters could be of spiritual harm and a temptation to the Jews -so, if possible, better to avoid it completely. (Ultimately, the Jews were punished for believing the spies. It was decreed that they all wander - and the men to perish - in the desert for the next 40 years)

Joshua and Caleb recognized the mistake of the other spies and answered, "...do not fear the nation of the Land" (Num. 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 Joshua and Caleb 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

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