Parsha Sh’lach – 5777

Parshat Sh’lach In-Depth

“Send out for yourself men (Numbers 13:2)

‘Send out for yourself’—as your mind dictates. I am not instructing you; if you so desire, send. For the people of Israel had come to Moses, saying ‘Let us send men before us,’ as it is written (Deuteronomy 1:22), ‘You all approached me . . .’; and Moses consulted with G‑d. Said G‑d: I have said that it is a good land. . . . By your life, I shall now give you the option to err . . .(Rashi; Talmud)

Moses named Hosea . . . Joshua (‘G‑d shall save’) (13:16)

He prayed for him: May G‑d save you from the counsel of the spies. (Talmud, Sotah 34b; Rashi)”

Torah Sparks: Sh’lach 5777

“The Mishna (2nd century) in Ta’anit 4:6 tells that the sin of the spies took place on Tisha B’Av. The Talmud (Ta’anit 29a) makes the calendrical connection, using verses. The discussion ends as follows:

And it is written, ‘And the congregation raised its voice, and wept; and the people wept that night (Num. 14:1).’ Rabbah said in the name of R. Joḥanan: That night was the night of the ninth of Av. The Holy One said to them: ‘You have wept without cause, therefore I will set [this day] aside for weeping throughout the generations to come.’

The ominous tone is expanded upon in the rabbinic Midrash Tanḥuma (5th century), which shows the identity of dates (9th Av) of the story of the spies and the destruction of a temple not to be built for several centuries. The Midrash (Tanḥuma Parashat Shlaḥ, 12) begins the same as the Talmud statement quoted above, and goes on…”

Hope in the Darkness of Fear

“One summer as visiting faculty at Greene Family Camp, I made the mistake of flicking through news headlines on my phone. They were filled with terror, pain, and discord. On one hand, I felt safe and comfortable at camp, surrounded by happy, boisterous campers soaking up the sun, Judaism, and each other. On the other hand, the headlines planted a seed of fear in my gut because of the unpredictability of the larger world.

Fear is a powerful emotion. For people with anxiety, even a little bit of fear can be crippling if our minds get wrapped up in playing over and over again all of the things that could possibly go wrong, regardless of how improbable they are.”

The Reminder of Tzitzit

“The parasha this week is Shelakh-Lekha. In this parasha Moses, at God’s command, chooses one leader from each of the twelve tribes to serve as spies. Their mission is to enter the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, and to bring back a report to the people. “See what kind of country it is….. [investigate its cities, people, soil, and forests and] bring back some of the fruit of the land.” They do bring back grapes and other fruits, but ten of the twelve spies also bring back a report that, though the land is flowing “with milk and honey,” it is filled with “giants,” large fortified cities and other dangerous inhabitants. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, bring back a positive report reminding the people that God is with them and so they can overcome any obstacle or enemy. Unfortunately, the people are carried away by the report of the majority and wonder why Moses brought them this far out of Egypt in order to die in the desert. As punishment for following the negative report of the ten spies God declares that the Israelites will wander in the desert for forty years until this generation dies. Joshua and Caleb will be the only ones of that generation allowed to enter the land.”

Haftarah Parshat Sh’lach

“Sometimes when studying the Tanakh (Bible), the story is not the only thing there is to see. You can go in expecting to learn one thing and learn something entirely different. Joshua sent two spies to inspect Jericho before its conquest. When they get to the city, they are in need of a hiding place and turn to Rahab the Harlot to save them. She, in turn, brings them up to the roof and hides them: “But she brought them up to the roof and hid them in the stalks of flax (ba’pistei ha’eitz) which she had spread out on the roof.” (2:6)

Now, flax, from which linen is made, grows in tall “wood like” stalks and though it is not a tree, this biblical verse literally calls it a “flax tree”. This peculiar description turns out to play an unusual role in a debate over which blessing to say over smelling the scent of certain fragrant plants.”