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  JEWISH AND KOSHER UNITED STATES       
 
 
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B”H

SHALACH - JEWISH PRIDE AND LOOKING DEEPER
By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs

 

---

Shalom and Bracha!

This Shabbat we bless the month of Tammuz and we read the narrative of the spies. As the Jewish people approached the land of Israel, they requested of Moshe to send spies into the land, both to see its qualities and to seek the ideal point and method of entry. Moshe asked Hashem’s permission, and Hashem said that he should appoint one of the leaders from each tribe. Moshe appointed them and sent them on their mission. Recognizing that there was negative potential in the mission, Moshe prayed for his student, Yehoshua, that he be guided correctly. Calev, fearing being misled, went to the cave of the Patriarchs to pray. (This demonstrates the great power of prayer by the grave of Tzaddikim.)

When they reached the land of Israel, the spies found that many of the inhabitants were dying. Unbeknownst to them, this was divine intervention to conceal and aid their mission. As they toured the land, they found many obstacles that seemed insurmountable. The inhabitants were strong, and amongst them were giants. Amalek, the eternal enemy of the Jewish people, was present in the land. Upon returning to the camp, they discouraged the Jewish people from going to Israel. Although Yehoshua and Calev assured the Jewish people that the land was good and that they could conquer the land, the other spies convinced them that it was impossible. Hashem became angered with the Jewish people and decreed that they should remain in the desert for forty years.

Many of the things that scared them were in fact blessings. The people who were dying served as a distraction to allow them to complete their mission. The Jewish people had already defeated Amalek once in a miraculous war. Had they looked with true faith they would have entered the land immediately.

The desire to send spies was a mistaken one. Hashem’s promise should have been sufficient to guarantee the character of the land, and we should have relied upon His guidance to enter the land in the best manner. The spies sin, however far outweighed the indiscretion of sending them. Moshe sent them to find the best way to enter the land, not to determine whether or not they should go. Once Hashem promised the Jewish people that they would enter the land, they were assured of success. Their only job was to determine the best manner of entry. By discouraging the people, they denied Hashem’s ability to fulfill His word.

There is a very telling verse in the narrative. The spies said that (Bamidbar 13:33) “We were (tiny) like grasshoppers in our eyes and similarly in their (the inhabitants of the land) eyes. The nations of the world take their cue from us. When we respect ourselves, our heritage, our G-d and our right to exist we are respected. When we grovel we are viewed as insects.

Sometimes, we are faced with Mitzvot that seem difficult or even impossible. In our view of society (or of ourselves), a particular Mitzvah seems incompatible, or even unreasonable. We must learn from this week’s portion that our job is only to find the optimal way to fulfill the Mitzvot, not to judge their value. If Hashem commands us to do something, it is within our reach. Furthermore, many things that we perceive as negative may be for our own benefit, just like the deaths of the inhabitants was for the benefit of the spies.

The portion concludes with the Mitzvah of Tzitzit. The Torah commands that we wear Tzitzit (fringes) on the four corners (Kanfei) of our clothing. Kanfei also means wings. The word Tzitzit is related to the word maitzitz, which means gazes. The Tzitzit remind us of all of the Mitzvot. The word Tzitzit has the numerical value of 600, and each corner has 5 knots and 8 strings, totaling 613, the number of Mitzvot in the Torah. The connection isn’t obvious, you have to look deeply. Tzitzit are related to the story of the spies because we must look deeper into our lives in order to see that everything is truly a blessing and we have the power to overcome every obstacle in service of Hashem. The words Tzitzit and Kanfei allude to the redemption, as the prophet tells us that Moshiach stands behind the wall, looks through the window, and gazes through the cracks (Maitzitz Min Hacharakim) and He will bring us to Israel on eagles wings (Kanfei Nesharim). The four cornered garment alludes to the ingathering from the four corners of the Earth. May we see the redemption now!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to Zalman Baumgarten and Tzivi Geisinsky on the occasion of their wedding. May their home be filled with bliss and be a lighthouse of Yiddishkeit directing to the coming of Moshiach

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