Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat Sh'lach 5759

Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.

Kohen First Aliya -20 p'sukim (13:1-20)

G-d tells Moshe to send scouts to 'spy out' the Land. The emphasis is on Moshe doing it on his own, not at G-d's command nor by His 'desire'.

[SDT] Another interpretation of L'CHA is 'for your benefit'. This is based on Rashi's comment in LECH L'CHA. But how is it to apply here? Was the sending of the M'raglim to Moshe's benefit? The Kli Yakar suggests that it was, since in prolonged his life by 40 years.

Point to Ponder...

Speaking of LECH L'CHA, contrast that command to Avraham with the 'non-command' here to Moshe. Sort of remind one of the difference between the officer sending his men into battle or leading them. Intending no disrespect to Moshe Rabeinu - he himself admits that he erred with the Spies, look at the different results inAvraham picking himself up and coming to Eretz Yisrael, and Moshe's sending the Meraglim.And yet, the Torah says that they were sent 'Al Pi HaShem', by G-d's 'mouth'. (Rashi's comment: With His permission; He did not prevent them from going). In Parshat Dvarim when Moshe is recounting the episode of the spies to the nextgeneration, he admits that the suggestion from thePeople found favor in his eyes, thereby accepting responsibility for what had happened. It is also clear that the purpose for which the M'raglim were sent was to determine the best way to enter Canaan and NOT to evaluate the feasibility of entering.

In those days, in our time...

When people plan a pilot trip to Israel, or make an appointment with a Shaliach or Aliya counselor, their purpose should not be to decide whether to live in Israel or not. The goal should be to determine the best way to make Aliya - where should we live, where should weI seek employment, what is the school situation hereor there, is my field a good one for Israel or should I change my major, go for another degree in such-and-such, is a city for us or perhaps a Yishuv, etc. The M'raglim were not sent to evaluate whether we should follow G-d's command to enter and conquer Eretz Yisrael. All they were supposed to do was search for weaknessesand strengths of the locals and supply the intelligence reports for a successful campaign.

[SDT] The Torah names the 'scouts', each a prominent leader of his Tribe. Note that Yehoshua is identified as being from Ephraim, without reference to Yosef, and 3 p'sukim later (rather than immediately following, as would be expected), Yosef-Menashe is mentioned. Contrast this with the list of the leaders in BaMidbar,where Ephraim and Menashe are mentioned consecutively under the name of Yosef. Commentaries point out that Yosef is associated with bringing negative reports about his brothers to their father. Here, the Torah only identifies Menashe's scout with Yosef, since he (Gadi ben Susi) brings a 'negative' report about the Land,as opposed to Ephraim's scout, Yehoshua. Note also the different Torah-notes for Ephraim and Menashe as opposed to all the other tribes. This, too, calls attention to the above comment.

[SDT] The Baal HaTurim points out that the numeric value of SHLACH is 338. In the year (3)338 we were sent OUT of ERETZ YISRAEL. How ironic that the original SHLACH into the Land was flawed, 'guaranteeing' our being sent in the other direction in the year 3 thousand SHLACH.

Moshe gives the scouts instructions and an itinerary, hoping that they will return with an encouraging report for Bnei Yisrael. It was the time of 'Bikurei Anavim'. The mention of BIKUREI ANAVIM is the starting point for the placing of BIKURIM and the Sin of the Spies on opposite sides of the same coin.

Levi Second Aliya - 20 p'sukim (13:21-14:7)

The Torah describes the 40-day 'tour' of the scouts. When they returned, they reported to the People about the truly beautiful land they had been sent to. They show the samples of fruit they brought. They describe the apparent strength of the inhabitants (in an attempt to scare the People). And they mention Amalek (knowingthat it would have a discouraging effect). Calev silences the People and tells them that they should go up to the Land; 'we can do it!'. The other ten scouts objected and spoke against the Land, causing widespread panic among the People. Moshe, Aharon, Calev, and Yehoshua are greatly troubled by the report and the People'sreaction. Calev and Yehoshua proclaim the goodness of the Land.

[SDT] "And they came to Nahal Eshkol... and they cut an eshkol of grapes... to this place they called Eshkol because of the grapes they cut there." It seems that the place was already called Eshkol. The Vilna Gaon suggests that the place was previously known as Eshkol, perhaps named that way in honor of a person known asEshkol (maybe one of Avraham's allies or a descendant). Then the scouts renamed the place Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes they cut there. He points out that the first reference to Eshkol is spelled without a vav. The second time, Eshkol is spelled 'fully', due to the reconfirmation of the name Eshkol.

When Israel built the Ramot Eshkol neighborhood following the Six Days war, they called it Eshkol after Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. Subsequently, they found an ancient cave whose entrance is adorned with stone carvings of clusters of grapes. So it is possible that the area could have carried the name Eshkol before its namewas re-established.

[SDT] "And we were in our eyes like grasshoppers (compared with the mighty giants in Canaan), and so were we in their eyes." The Kotzker Rebbe says that this is one of the sins of the spies - we should not worry about how we appear to other nations. If they viewed us as insignificant, that's their problem. That we saw ourselvesthat way, is our problem.

Sh'lishi Third Aliya -18 p'sukim - 14:8-25

"If G-d wants us to go there, then we will obviously be able to prevail. Just don't rebel against Him." The People wanted to stone Calev andYehoshua for those words. G-d is 'angered' by the people and 'suggests' to Moshe that He destroy them. Moshe argues with G-d on behalf of the People. His argument is that the othernations will claim that G-d did not have the ability to bring the People into the Land. This would be a Chilul HaShem. Moshe then invokes a modified version of the Divine Attributes and pleads for forgiveness. (The formula that Moshe uses has been incorporated into our prayers.) G-d agrees to Moshe's pleas. G-d's responsealso became part of the Yom Kippur davening.) G-d declares that this is the tenth time the People have 'tested' G-d's patience (so to speak). He promises that the men of this generation shall not enter the Land - except for Calev (and Yehoshua).

[SDT] The 13 Divine Attributes from Parshat Ki Tisa begin with HaShem HaShem, G-d's Name in His quality of mercy, twice. Here is SHLACH, the 'other' list of attributes begins with HaShem, once. The explanation of the twice mentioned HaShem is that it is meant to invoke G-d's Mercy both before and after sinning. Why shouldwe need to ask for G-d's mercy BEFORE we sin, and if there is a reason, then why not in the second list. The Meshech Chochma answers as follows: In Ki Tisa, the sin in question was that of the Golden Calf - a sin of idolatry. When it comes to idolatry, one's evil thoughts and intentions - even without action followingup on the thoughts - is considered by G-d as a sin against Him. Hence, we need to say HaShem (before the sin, while only contemplating it), HaShem (after the sin), please be merciful. With the Sin of the Spies, as terrible a sin as it was, idolatry was not involved - therefore HaShem only once. Based on this idea, we cannotsay that 'only' 3000 people sinned with the Eigel HaZahav - less than a half of a percent of the population. Many who witnessed it were unsure how to react and thought about sinning. Sometimes it is sinful to remain silent when something is wrong.

The People are told that Amalek and the Canaanite nation occupy the valley and that they (the People of Israel) will have to divert towards the wilderness.

More to think about...

In last week's sedra, we read of a 'minor' transgression of Lashon HaRa, for which Miriam was severely punished. There are mitzva-counters who include among the 613, the mitzva to remember what G-d did to Miriam in the Midbar. Rashi explains the juxtaposition of the episode of the M'raglim and that of Miriam, saying that'these wicked' people didn't learn their lesson from what happened to Miriam. Note also, that it was not just the 10 M'raglim who were punished for speaking evil against the Land of Israel. Those who heard the DIBA RA'A AL HAARETZ and accepted it, and let it panic them, let it affect them, they too were punished. So itis with LASHON HARA, gossip and slander. The one who spreads rumor and innuendo is committing a grievous sin. But so are the people who hear the gossip and slander and believe it without any foundation whatsoever, the people who do not say back to the gossiper - Do not say those things. You don't know if any of it is true,and even if it is, you are still not allowed to say those kind of things.This is another lesson to learn - and learn well - from this week's sedra.

R'vi'i Fourth Aliya - 27 p'sukim (14:26-15:7)

The Torah elaborates upon this devastating pronouncement by G-d. The People shall roam the Midbar for a number of years equal to the days of the spies sojourn - viz. 40 years. The Sin of the Spies was on Tish'a b'Av 2449 - a year and three weeks after the Golden Calf. The 40 years of wandering/punishment is retroactiveto the Calf, that sin being included, as the beginning of the 'Angering of G-d'.

Note the recurrence of the number 40. The Maharal explains that 40 is the period of complete formation and/or destruction. An embryo develops into a fetus in 40 days. The Torah was taught to Moshe in 40 days (twice). On the other hand, the Flood destroyed all life on Earth (except for Noah & co.) in 40 days. And here, thegeneration of the wilderness is destined to die out in 40 years. 40 (less 1) categories of Melacha represent the complete spectrum of Creativity and 40 (less 1) lashes punish a person for certain violations. A mikve must contain a minimum of 40 measures of water - the waters of the mikve 'recreate' the person who was rituallydefiled and now has been restored to a state of purity.

The People deeply regret their behavior and plan to enter the Land immediately. Moshe warns them not to, because G-d no longer wants them to do so. Some went anyway - without the protective Aron - and are defeated by the Amalek and Canaanite armies. The Torah next sets down the details of the flour and oil offering andlibation wine that are to accompany most korbanot. It is interesting to note the context of these laws. Right after being told that the older generation will not enter the Land, G-d comforts them by teaching procedures that apply in the Land, specifically mitzvot that 'are pleasing to G-d'. As if to say, "Don't be too dismayed; your children will live in Israel and will serve me in the Mikdash." The Baal HaTurim points out that both here in Shlach, as well as in Pinchas, Korbanot are juxtaposed to battles, to teach us that we will be victorious in battle in the merit of proper service of G-d.

Chamishi Fifth Aliya - 9 p'sukim (15:8-16)

The details of the MINCHA & NESECH are completed in this portion. The equality of Torah Law for all Jews is reiterated and emphasized.


The mincha for an ox consisted of 3 measures of flour and half a hin (6 log) of oil, that of a ram was 2 measures of flour and a third of a hin (4 log) of oil, and that of a lamb was 1 measure of flour and a quarter of a hin (3 log) of oil. If we were to equalize the amounts of flour, let's say to 6 measures (that's 2 oxenor 3 rams or 6 lambs), the respective quantities of oil would be 1 hin, 1 hin, and 1.5 hin. This means that the mincha of the ox and the ram were of identical proportions of the two ingredients, but the mincha of a lamb was significantly 'looser'. The Gemara discusses the 'dry" mincha vs. the "wet" mincha. It is mentionedhere just because it exists.

Shishi Sixth Aliya -10 p'sukim, 15:17-26

The mitzva of Challah is presented [385].


Two major aspects of this precious mitzva are:

It is performed with the essential food of the person - Bread is the staff of life. This elevates the mundane physical necessity of food to a spiritual level.

Secondly, the fact that we are to give Challah to a kohen - specifically after most of the work has been done, meaning that we give Challah from the ready-to-pop-into-the-oven dough rather than the raw produce of other gifts to the kohen - indicates that it is not merely the gift that is significant, but the service tothe recipient that is important as well.

Challah is one of the mitzvot that our Sages have kept active by rabbinic decree since the destruction of the Temple, so that its practice and lessons should not be lost to us. Usually, reciting and learning suffice. Not here.

Clarification: All other Eretz Yisrael-related mitzvot took effect after the 14 years of conquest and settlement. The one exception is Challah, which applied immediately upon entry into the Land. The textual cue to this distinction is the introductory phrase for the mitzva. In all other cases, the Torah says: KI TAVO, whenyou will come... In this case it says B'VO'ACHEM, with your coming...

Challah is one of several mitzvot that have no amount or fraction specified by theTorah. In each case, the Sages 'recommend' a minimum (and sometimes, a maximum).

Next the Torah presents the details of the Sin Offering of the community. (In a case where the leaders inadvertently misled the people.) [The language seems to indicate all mitzvot; we are taught that idolatry is intended in this portion.]We recognize that sometimes our leaders must bear the responsibility of leading usastray. The ideas (and text) of this portion form part of our Yom Kippur service.

Sh'vi'i Seventh Aliya - 15 p'sukim, 15:27-41

On the other hand, many times each individual must be accountable for his own actions; we cannot always blame our leaders. The individual's korban chatat is here discussed. These offerings are appropriate only for inadvertent violations; intentional violation (idolatry is implied) is punishable by Excision (being cut off...),and is atonable by other methods.

MESSAGE: Could we perhaps understand the following as a lesson to be learned from the inclusion of this topic specifically after the episode of the spies? Individuals (leaders, in this case), caused the population to panic and rebel against G-d. Is this a communal problem only, without accusing the individual of independentwrong-doing? Maybe, maybe not. We cannot usually say: "But everybody else did it; why blame me?" We must be responsible for our own actions, even if brought about through peer pressure or community behavior.

The Torah next tells us of the 'wood gatherer' (probably Zelafchad) who was locked up pending details from G-d as to how a public desecrator of the Shabbat is to be punished. G-d's command is to stone the violator. And so it was done.

The final portion of the sedra is the third passage of the Sh'ma - the portion of Tzitzit. It contains the mitzva to put tzitzit on the corners of 4-cornered garments [386] and that one of the strings of each corner should be dyed T'cheilet, the special blue dye.

Clarification... The Torah's command regarding Tzitzit is to put them on the four-cornered garments that we wear. If we don't wear such a garment, then there is no Torah mitzva. Our Sages have required us to purposely put on a 4-cornered garment, viz. tallit and arba kanfot. It is significant to note that the Rabbis donot often require us to create the circumstances that would then obligate us to perform a mitzva. They did so with Tzitzit because it is not a mitzva that we 'perform', it is a mitzva that we wear. It is an integral part of our every day mundane lives. What a shame to be denied this inspirational mitzva because the syleof clothing has changed. Similarly, the Sages perpetuated the mitzva of Challah, (a) by requiring it even without a Beit HaMikdash and (b) even in Chutz LaAretz (although it is clearly a Land-related mitzva).

The Torah links the mitzva of tzitzit with all the mitzvot of the Torah; tzitzit serve as a reminder of the Jew's all-encompassing commitment to G-d.

This is followed by the warning not to follow the evil temptation of eye (mind) or heart (thoughts and emotions) [387]. The Torah then reiterates the importance of belief in G-d in general, and in His having redeemed us from Egypt, in particular. Thus, the twice daily recitation of Shma constitutes the fulfillment of themitzva of remembering the Exodus 'all the days of your life', in addition to its own mitzva, the recitation of the Shma.

Note that the two positive mitzvot of Parshat Shlach deal with two main, basic needs of humans - food and clothing, physical necessities that have significant spiritual dimensions as well. The basics. But Korbanot are also presented (though not counted from this sedra). The spiritual and lofty. It is as if the People arebeing 'rebuilt from scratch' following the devastating sin of the spies.

The last 5 p'sukim (the Tzitzit portion) are reread for the Maftir.

The last pasuk has the distinction of beginning and ending with the same three words. This seems to be unique in Tanach, except for three-word p'sukim, which also begin and end with the same three words. Anyway, it makes a nice riddle, especially because we think of EMET as being the last word of the pasuk. Which it isn't.

Haftara 24 p'sukim - Yehoshua 2:1-24

Paralleling the main theme of the sedra, the Haftara tells us of other spies - two of them, according to the Midrash, they were Calev and Pinchas - who were sent by Yehoshua into Jericho. Rahav, who had heard of the wonders that happened to the People of Israel since they left Egypt, protects the spies from the men whoare searching for them. In exchange for her protection, Rahav receives a promise that she and her family will be spared when the Israelite army attacks the city. Tradition tells us that Rahav subsequently became a sincere convert to Judaism and the wife of Yehoshua.

[SDT] Moshe sent the M'raglim to go up ET HAHAR. Numeric value is the same as TORAH, so they should merit its protection - Baal HaTurim