• Dvar for Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

    Among the questions about the land of Canaan that Moshe commanded the twelve spies to investigate was “does it have trees or not?” and then added “you should take from the fruit of the land.”  Rashi cites a midrash explaining that this question was not literally about trees, but rather whether there were upright people in the land whose merit might protect the inhabitants. The Satmar Rav (quoted in Talelei Orot) asks a question on the Midrash:  How were the spies to determine if there were upright individuals in the land?  We all know that there are plenty of phonies around and sometimes the person with the most pious exterior is disguising a rotten core.

    The Rav explains that “you should take from the fruit of the land” was Moshe’s advice on how to investigate the true character of the Canaanites.  Look at their “fruit,” their children and their students. A person can easily fool the casual observer, but children and students are acutely sensitive to hypocrisy.  If there were truly upright and righteous people among the Canaanites, the spies would find upright and righteous children and students; but if there was no proper “fruit” to be found, then the “trees” were absent as well.  May we merit to have the sincerity and integrity to be “trees” that produce the proper fruit.

  • Dvar for Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

    Parshat Shelach contains the famous story of the spies that are sent in to check out Canaan, which would later become Israel. The decision to send the twelve spies, however, was made by the people, as G-­d previously assured the Jews that He would take care of everything. But they insisted on seeing for themselves, and were instructed to send the spies of their own accord (13:2). The tribe leaders went in to spy, and came back with an awful report, scaring the Jews into wanting to go back to Egypt. What happened to the faith in G­-d, and with all His open miracles? What happened to the spies that they didn’t realize that everything they saw in Canaan was actually a blessing (1 – They saw huge fortresses, but that really meant that people in them were scared of something, 2 – They saw people dying, but G-­d made it that someone died when the spies came, so that the inhabitants would be preoccupied with burying them and not notice the spies, etc.)?

    The answer lies in their very first mistake… They wanted to see the land through their own pessimistic eyes, and that’s what they got to see. Seeing things without the proper perspective can make even positive things look bad, even if you’re a tribe leader that people depend on and look up to, even if you’ve witnessed countless miracles in your life, and even if G­-d just told you that He’s on your side. What seemed like a harmless request turned out to be a disaster that cost the Jews 39 more years in the desert. They could have done it right had they done what Yehoshua (Joshua) did: put G-­d’s name first (Yud, the letter representing G-­d added to the beginning of his).

    We too can look at the world and at our lives, and see living without G-d and the Torah, and it may not seem so bad. Inevitably we’d end up wandering in circles, only to realize that it was our decision to be “free” that caused us to be slaves to nature and to our desires. Conversely, we can find our Torah goal, hang it where we can see it, and despite the challenges and through it all, we’re guaranteed to “see” it through.

  • Dvar for Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

    Among the questions about the land of Canaan that Moshe commanded the twelve spies to investigate was “does it have trees or not?” and then added “you should take from the fruit of the land.”  Rashi cites a midrash explaining that this question was not literally about trees, but rather whether there were upright people in the land whose merit might protect the inhabitants. The Satmar Rav (quoted in Talelei Orot) asks a question on the Midrash:  How were the spies to determine if there were upright individuals in the land?  We all know that there are plenty of phonies around and sometimes the person with the most pious exterior is disguising a rotten core.

    The Rav explains that “you should take from the fruit of the land” was Moshe’s advice on how to investigate the true character of the Canaanites.  Look at their “fruit,” their children and their students. A person can easily fool the casual observer, but children and students are acutely sensitive to hypocrisy.  If there were truly upright and righteous people among the Canaanites, the spies would find upright and righteous children and students; but if there was no proper “fruit” to be found, then the “trees” were absent as well.  May we merit to have the sincerity and integrity to be “trees” that produce the proper fruit.

  • Dvar for Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

    Among the questions about the land of Canaan that Moshe commanded the twelve spies to investigate was “does it have trees or not?” and then added “you should take from the fruit of the land.”  Rashi cites a midrash explaining that this question was not literally about trees, but rather whether there were upright people in the land whose merit might protect the inhabitants. The Satmar Rav (quoted in Talelei Orot) asks a question on the Midrash:  How were the spies to determine if there were upright individuals in the land?  We all know that there are plenty of phonies around and sometimes the person with the most pious exterior is disguising a rotten core.

    The Rav explains that “you should take from the fruit of the land” was Moshe’s advice on how to investigate the true character of the Canaanites.  Look at their “fruit,” their children and their students.  A person can easily fool the casual observer, but children and students are acutely sensitive to hypocrisy.  If there were truly upright and righteous people among the Canaanites, the spies would find upright and righteous children and students; but if there was no proper “fruit” to be found, then the “trees” were absent as well.  May we merit to have the sincerity and integrity to be “trees” that produce the proper fruit.

  • Dvar for Shlach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

    Parshat Shlach contains the famous story of the spies that are sent in to check out Canaan, which would later become Israel. The decision to send the twelve spies, however, was made by the people, as G-d previously assured the Jews that He would take care of everything. But they insisted on seeing for themselves, and were instructed to send the spies of their own accord (13:2). The tribe leaders went in to spy, and came back with an awful report, scaring the Jews into wanting to go back to Egypt. What happened? What happened to the faith in G-d, and with all His open miracles? What happened to the spies that they didn’t realize that everything they saw in Canaan was actually a blessing (1 – They saw huge fortresses, but that really meant that people in them were scared of something, 2 – They saw people dying, but G-d made it that someone died when the spies came, so that the inhabitants would be preoccupied with burying them and not notice the spies, etc.)?

    The answer lies in their very first mistake.. they wanted to see the land through their own pessimistic eyes, and that’s what they got to see. Seeing things without the proper perspective can make even positive things look bad, even if you’re a tribe leader that people depend on and look up to, even if you’ve witnessed countless miracles in your life, and even if G-d just told you that He’s on your side. What  seemed like a harmless request turned out to be a disaster that cost the Jews 39 more years in the desert! They could have done it right had they done what Yehoshua (Joshua) did: put G-d’s name first (Yud, the letter representing G-d added to the beginning of his).

    We too can look at the world and at our lives, and see living without G-d and the Torah, and it may not seem so bad. Inevitably we’d end up wandering in circles, only to realize that it was our decision to be “free” that caused us to be slaves to nature and to our desires. Conversely, we can find our Torah goal, hang it where we can see it, and despite the challenges and through it all, we’re guaranteed to “see” it through.

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The Jewish people rejected the pleas of Joshua and Caleb, and decided to stone them. G‑d intervened, His glory appearing over the Tabernacle. G‑d informs Moshe of His decision to instantaneously wipe out the Israelites in a massive plague due to their persistent lack of faith. Moshe successfully invoked G‑d’s mercy and pointed out that this mass execution will cause a mammoth desecration of G‑d’s name. “People will assume that G‑d lacked the power to defeat the Canaanites in battle, so He instead slaughtered His people,” Moses argued. Although G‑d agreed not to immediately wipe out the Israelites, that generation would not enter the Land. G‑d instructs the Jews to reverse course, and to head back to the desert.

    So Moshe and G-d take turns giving up on the Israelites. This time Moshe saves the day with his quick thinking arguments. It’s always amazing when Moshe is able to hold sway with G-d, appeasing Him with logic that He undoubtedly already knew. It must be that there was a benefit to 1) manually going through the arguments, and 2) recording those arguments for us to learn from. It could be similar to the concept of Vidui, or verbally admitting one’s sins. There’s a benefit to arguing for what you believe in!

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The scouts spent forty days reconnoitering the land. They returned to the Israelite encampment with specimens of Canaan’s produce, and with an ominous report. They conceded that the land flowed with milk and honey, but they warned that its population was mighty and the cities well fortified and impossible to conquer. Only Caleb and Joshua, the scouts representing the tribes of Judah and Ephraim, dissented. They argued that the land was magnificent, and there was no reason for concern because G‑d could surely bring the Israelites victory in battle. The Jewish people spent that entire night wailing, expressing their preference to return to Egypt rather than be defeated in battle by the Canaanites.

    The Kotzker Rebbe and others define two components of the Sin of the Spies from this part of the passuk. First, that we saw ourselves as small and insignificant. Second, that we were concerned about how others perceived us. With G-d obviously on our side (we know what happened to Egypt and we witnessed so many miracles performed on our behalf), we should not have viewed ourselves that way. And, how others perceive us is their problem, not ours.

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: Moshe sends scouts to Canaan and all of them — except Joshua and Caleb — bring back frightening reports. The people react fearfully and rebelliously. G‑d decrees a forty year delay until the Israelites will enter Canaan, during which time all males between the ages of twenty and sixty will perish. Many Israelites then attempt to unilaterally proceed to Canaan, but are cut down by the Canaanites. Various laws are discussed: libations, giving part of the dough (“challah”) to a Kohain (Priest), certain sin sacrifices, and the mitzvah of tzitzit. A Jew is found desecrating the Shabbat and is executed.

    Aliya Summary: G‑d allows Moshe to send scouts to reconnoiter the land of Canaan in preparation for their anticipated invasion of the land. One member of every tribe — with the exception of the tribe of Levi — was chosen for this task. Moshe instructed the scouts to bring back a report regarding the nature of the land; its strengths and weaknesses. He also instructed them to bring back samples of the land’s produce.

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: We now learn the rules regarding an individual who is guilty of an idolatrous practice — whether inadvertently or intentionally. A man is found desecrating the Shabbat, and is executed. The last part of this week’s reading discusses the commandment of putting tzitzit (fringes) on four-cornered garments. When looking at the fringes we remember all the commandments and refrain from following the temptations of the heart.

    Why is the Mitzvah (commandment) of tzitzit so important that it’s mentioned twice a day? Some say that the blue string reminds us of water, which reminds us of heaven, which would remind us of G-d. A bit far fetched, but I guess if we learn to associate all those things, it would work. But tzitzit also represent the possibility of always performing a positive commandment. With every second that we wear the tzitzit we get a mitzvah, plus the added benefit of remembering the others. It possibly represents doing what we can right now, as well as thinking of other good deeds we can do in the future, thereby representing the present and the future in a positive color (blue). Not a bad thing to keep in mind as often as possible…

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The mitzvah of challah is contained in this Aliya: when one kneads dough, a portion must be taken and given to the priest. If the Sanhedrin (rabbinic supreme court) erroneously permits an act of idolatry, and the community acts upon this permission, the Sanhedrin must bring a special sin-offering, detailed in this section.

    I wonder if Vegas could place odds on the Rabbinic Supreme Court mistakenly permitting idolatry, what they would be. Nonetheless, with the Jews’ magnitude of sins raised to new levels previously in this Parsha, it’s no surprise that even this was now a possibility. Contrary to initial perception, this isn’t a condemnation, it’s stating the real truth that mistakes can and WILL happen, and as long as we understand that the mistakes we make are mistakes and not statements against our beliefs, nothing is beyond forgiveness, even violating one of the ten commandments. This is an important quality to emulate, that of forgiveness of loved ones that have made mistakes, so long as the understanding is there, that it was in fact a mistake, and not a new reality.

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