Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary — Shelach
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha p’tucha or s’tuma. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p’sukim in the parsha.
Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
Kohen – First Aliya 20 p’sukim – 13:1-20
[P> 13:1 (43)] G-d tells Moshe to send “people” to “scout out” the Land. (“People” is in quotes because commentaries point to the word ANASHIM and say that it means people of high calibre and repute – except that we know how it turns out…) The emphasis in the wording of the pasuk is on Moshe being the one sending the Meraglim, not at G-d’s command nor by His “desire”.
The representatives of each tribe are named and the Torah, further testifies to the high caliber of each man.
SDT: Back in Bamidbar, when the Tribal leaders were named, Efrayim and Menashe were identified as the sons of Yosef – within the same pasuk. Here, only Menashe is identified with Yosef, and Efrayim’s scout, Yehoshua, is listed 3 p’sukim earlier, without reference to his father. Commentaries note that Yosef had been involved in “negative reports” (against his brothers), as was the scout of Menashe involved in negative reports on the Land. Yehoshua remained clear of the taint of DIBA RA’A and is therefore not mentioned together with Yosef, in this context.
(It is interesting to note that the word immediately before ‘for the tribe of Efrayim…’ is YOSEF, in this case, the father of Yig’al, the scout for Yissachar. Nonetheless, it is interesting that Efrayim is juxtaposed to a different Yosef even though he is ‘distanced’ from his own father’s name.)
And Moshe called Hoshea bin Nun, Yehoshua.
SDT: Rashi says that by adding a YUD to Hoshea’s name, he was giving him a bracha that he should be saved from the group attitude of the other Meraglim. Question: MIMA NAFSHACH (whichever way you want to look at things) – Why did Moshe not “bless” the others scouts similarly? And why would Yehoshua need a bracha when Kalev apparently did not?
Whether a Scout will come back with the proper attitude or not was based on each individual’s personality, perceptions, and conclusions. That was up to each of the 12 individuals. That’s not why Moshe gave a special bracha to Yehoshua. Moshe had a separate fear concerning Yehoshua. He could imagine Yehoshua joining the ten Meraglim in discouraging the People from entering the Land so that Moshe’s life would be prolonged. Eldad and Meidad had prophesied that Moshe would die and Yehoshua would lead the people into the Land, Yehoshua heard that and was quite agitated. Moshe’s bracha to Yehoshua was to keep Yehoshua honest, so to speak, so that he would not join the “evil advice” for any reason, even one to benefit Moshe himself.
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 the ripening of the grapes, Bikurei Anavim.
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 to which they had been sent. They showed the samples of the fruits they brought back with them. They described the apparent strength of the inhabitants (in an attempt to scare the people). And they mentioned Amalek and other nations (knowing it would have a discouraging effect).
Kalev silenced the people and told them that they should go to the Land; “we can do it!”. The other ten scouts objected and spoke further against the Land, causing widespread panic among the people. Moshe, Aharon, Kalev, and Yehoshua are greatly troubled by the words of the Meraglim and by the reaction of the people. Kalev and Yehoshua proclaim the goodness of the Land.
SDT: …and we were in our eyes like grasshoppers (compared to the giants of Canaan) and so we appeared to them. The Kotzker Rebbe and others define two components of the Sin of the Spies from this part of the pasuk. First, that we saw ourselves as small and insignificant, compared with the nations in Eretz Yisrael. Second, that we were concerned about how others perceived us. With G-d obviously on our side (we knew what happened to Egypt and we witnessed so many miracles per- formed on our behalf), we should not have viewed ourselves that way. And, how others perceive us is their problem, not ours. (In fact, it should often be an asset for us.) Sadly, each of these attitude problems exists in our own time.
* Notice how the first time the Meraglim spoke to the people, they did not say that we shouldn’t go into Eretz Yisrael. They “just” described some of the difficlties we would face and apparently hoped that their report would scare off the people. After Kalev took the microphone, so to speak, and gave a brief but enthusiastic” Aliya pep-talk,” the Meraglim dropped the subtle approach and spoke out openly against going into Eretz Yisrael. This is what the Torah described as DIBA AL HA-ARETZ, Lashon HaRa against the Land.
It might be said that people who tell other Jews about terror attacks and other difficulties that we face in Israel are “guilty” of “first-stage” Meraglim-talk. Those who add “you gotta be crazy to live there” or words to that effect, are repeating and perpetuating what is maybe the greatest communal sin in the history of the Jewish People. The sin of the Meraglim created the blackest day on our calendar, Tish’a b’Av. The destructions of the two Batei Mikdash and the various causes of the CHURBAN were “merely” add- ons to Tish’a b’Av. When we totally repudiate – by action, not just by word – the Sin of the Spies, and embrace – by action, not just by word – the righteous behavior of Kalev and Yehoshua, then we can hope for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zecharya that will see Tish’a b’Av and the other Churban- related fasts become Yamim Tovim.
Shlishi – 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 Kalev and Yehoshua for those words.
And sadly, there are many Jews today who still don’t hear – or want to hear Kalev’s words.
[P> 14:11 (15)] G-d is “angered” by the people and “suggests” to Moshe that He will destroy them. Moshe argues on behalf of the people. His (main) argument is that other nations will say that G-d did not have the ability to bring Bnei Yisrael into K’na’an, so He killed them in the wilderness. This would be a Chilul HaShem. Moshe then invokes a modified version of the Divine Attributes and pleads for forgiveness for the people. (Part of Moshe’s words at this point have been incorporated into our davening.) G-d agrees to Moshe’s pleas. (G-d’s response to Moshe also becomes part of the Yom Kippur davening.) G-d declares that this is the tenth time that the People have “tested” His patience (so to speak). He promises that the men of this generation will not enter the Land – except Kalev (and Yehoshua).
The People are told that Amalek and the Canaanites occupy the valley and that they (the People of Israel) will have to divert towards the Midbar.
Compare & Learn
Towards the end of last week’s sedra, we have the episode of Miriam’s talking about Moshe and her punishment for her relatively mild transgression of LASHON HARA. Commentaries point out the juxtaposition of the episode of the spies.
There is more to this than “simply” two examples of Lashon HaRa, one about a person and one about Eretz Yisrael. There are important elements and details to be learned one from the other.
For example, it is not just the speaker of Lashon HaRa that transgresses. Those who listen to LH passively, without objecting, those who accept the LH as truth – they too transgress. The Sin of the Spies was not restricted to 10 people. Thousands of those who heard what was said and accepted it, and panicked because of it, they too were guilty. And they were punished, as we know.
Translate this into our time. It is not enough for one to refrain from bad-mouthing Eretz Yisrael, one cannot stand by idly when others do it. Kalev jumped up as soon as he heard what the Meraglim said. He did his best to repudiate the words of the Meraglim and then made his own impassioned pitch for Aliya.
We must not “put down” Israel, its people, life here, etc. We must object when others do. And one should avoid saying something negative even in a joke. (Just as, “I was only joking” does not mitigate Lashon HaRa about another person.)
R’vi’i – Fourth Aliya 27 p’sukim – 14:26-15:7
[P> 14:26 (20)] The Torah elaborates upon the devastating pronouncement by G-d. The People shall roam in the Midbar for a number of years equal to the number of days of the spies’ trip.
Clarification: The Sin of the Spies occurred on Tish’a b’Av 2449, more than a year out of Egypt. The total time in the Midbar from Exodus to entry into the Eretz Yisrael is 40 years (less five days). So the punishment is really for less than 39 years, not 40. But look at things this way: The Sin of the Spies was the culmination of the “angering” of G-d. We can say that it began back at the Sin of the Golden Calf (or even before that – we “complained” when were hardly out of Egypt). We might say that the 40-year punishment is retroactive to include Cheit HaEigel (or earlier).
The people deeply regret their behavior and NOW decide to enter the Land immediately. Moshe warns them not to, because G-d no longer wants them to do so (at this point). Some of the people went anyway – without the protection of the Aron, so to speak – and are defeated and repelled by Amalek and K’na’an.
[P> 15:1 (16)] The Torah next sets down the details of the flour and oil offering and libation of wine that are to accompany most korbanot.
It is important to note the context of these laws. Right after being told that the older generation (males) will not enter the Land, G-d comforts the people by teaching procedures that will apply in Eretz Yisrael, specifically mitzvot that are to be “pleasing to G-d” (and even though they are commanded elsewhere). It is as if G-d says, “Don’t be too dismayed; your children will live in Eretz Yisrael and will serve Me in the Beit HaMikdash” in this special way.
Note also that the Aliya-break comes in mid-topic, leaving us, at the break, to ponder and savor the fact that we will yet bring about REIACH NICHOACH L’HASHEM.
Chamishi 5th Aliya 9 p’sukim – 15:8-16
The details of the MINCHA & NESECH are completed in this portion, finishing with a reiteration and emphasis on the equality of Torah law for all Jews.
Furthermore… It seems obvious that this area of mitzva was purposely put here in the aftermath of the Sin of the Spies. There are at least two other places in the Torah where the topic is presented, where the mitzva is counted, and where it fits well in the context. It seems superfluous here except as a message for the aftermath of the Meraglim. Note also, that it is not merely a mitzva that will apply in Eretz Yisrael, but one that is part of the Beit HaMikdash service.
Shishi – Sixth Aliya 10 p’sukim – 15:17-26
[P> 15:17 (5)] Mitzva of Challa is presented [385, A133 15:20].
Two major aspects of this precious mitzva are:
It is performed with THE essential food of humans – as in, Bread is the staff of life. This elevates the physical necessity of food to a spiritual level.
Which, by the way, fits the idea of “Man does not live by bread alone.” This idea, presented in the beginning of Parshat Eikev, referred to the Manna as that which indicated to the People that it is “by the mouth of G-d, that man lives.” That being so during the years of wandering in the Midbar, the concept continues in perpetuity via the mitzva of CHALLA and the other mitzvot associated with bringing bread to our tables, as well as washing for bread, HaMotzi, Birkat HaMazon… and more.
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 Challa from ready-to-pop-into-the- oven dough and not the raw produce, as with other gifts to the Kohen – indicates that it is not merely the gift that is significant, but the service to the Kohen that we perform 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 Beit HaMikdash, so that its practice and lessons should not be lost to us. Furthermore, Challah is rabbinically required in Chutz La- Aretz, although the Torah intro- duces the mitzva with, “with your coming to the Land”. This too helps keep “Torat Challa” alive among the Jewish People and show us how very special this mitzva is.
[S> 15:22 (5)] Next the Torah presents the details of the Chatat (sin offering) of the community (in cases where the leaders of the community inadvertently misled the people (in Avoda Zara related matters.) Here again it seems obvious that this topic is brought up because of the Sin of the Spies. This mitzva is not counted here, but it certainly conveys G-d’s attitude (so to speak) about Cheit HaMeraglim. We recognize that sometimes our leaders must bear the responsibility of leading us astray (but not always – often we must be accountable and not claim that we were just following orders). The ideas (and text) here are part of Yom Kippur davening.
Sh’VII Seventh Aliya 15 p’sukim – 15:27-41
[S> 15:27 (5 )] On the other hand, many times each individual must be accountable for his own actions; we cannot always blame our leaders. [The fits, as we mentioned before, the culpability – albeit different – of the population in addition to the Meraglim.] The Torah in this portion discusses the Chatat of the individual. These offerings are appropriate only for inadvertent violation; intentional violation (idolatry is implied) is punishable by KAREIT (excision, being cut off…), and is atoneable by other methods.
Following Cheit HaMeraglim and preceding the episode of the wood- gatherer, the Torah presents us with both types of Chata’ot – communal and individual. These topics are dealt with (and counted among Taryag) elsewhere. Again, we are seeing (probably) an example of repeating something in a specific context or juxtaposition to a story in order to make a point and deliver an important message to us.
[P> 15:32 (3)] The Torah next tells us of the wood-gatherer (Tradition identifies him as Tz’lofchad) who was locked up pending details from G-d as to how a public desecrator of Shabbat is to be executed. (That it is a capital offense was already known.)
[S> 15:35 (2)] G-d’s command was to stone the violator. And so it was done.
[P> 15:37 (5)] 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 a four-corner garment [386, A14 15:38] and that one of the strings of each corner should be dyed t’cheilet, the special blue dye. (Some say half a string, which becomes one of 8; some say one string, which becomes 2 of 8; and some say 2 of the 4 strings, which become 4 of 8 when tied.)
Our Sages went out of their way to involve us in the mitzva of Tzitzit – with Talit Gadol and Talit Katan – although we could technically not be required to fulfill this mitzva because our regular clothing (today) does not usually have four corners. Perhaps they did so because Tzitzit is not merely a mitzva that we “perform”, it is a mitzva that we wear. It is an integral part of our everyday lives. It is part of our Jewish uniform (for males). What a shame to be without this inspirational mitzva because the style of clothing has changed and we no longer wear 4-cornered garments. To clarify: If a man wears a four-cornered garment, he is required by Torah law to tie tzitzit on the corners – however, the Sages require us to wear a four-cornered garment in order to be obligated to fulfill the mitzva of Tzitzit. In other words, “officially”, TZITZIT is a MITZVA KIYUMIT. Our Sages changed it into a MITZVA CHIYUVIT.
Furthermore, the Torah links the mitzva of tzitzit with all the mitzvot of the Torah; tzitzit (and/or the P’til T’cheilet) 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 the eye (mind) or heart (emotion) [387, L47 15:39]. 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 the Sh’ma constitutes the fulfillment of the mitzva to remember the Exodus “all the days of your life”, in addition to its own mitzva, the saying of Sh’ma. It follows that when one recites the Sh’ma, one should have specific KAVANA at the end of the third passage to fulfill the mitzva to remember the Exodus all the days of our lives (which, if you remember the Mishna borrowed by the Hagada, KOL Y’MEI CHAYECHA teaches us that the mitzva applies in the daytime and at nighttime. The Hagada uses this Mishna to explain the fact that the mitzva of Hagada is at night. But the Mishna itself was discussing the third passage of Sh’ma and justifying its being recited at night too, even though Tzitzit is a day mitzva.)
These last 5 p’sukim, Parshat Tzitzit, are/is reread for the Maftir.
Haftara 24 p’sukim – Yehoshua 2:1-24
Paralleling and contrasting with the sedra, the Haftara tells us of two other spies (Kalev and Pinchas, according to Tradition – they are not named in the text) who were sent by Yehoshua into Yericho. Rachav, who had heard of the wonders that happened to the People of Israel, protects the spies from the men who are searching for them. In exchange for her protection, Rachav receives a promise that she and her family will be spared when the Israelite army attacks the city. Tradition tells us that Rachav subsequently became a sincere convert and the wife of Yehoshua. In one case, Spies were our undoing. In the other, they served a very positive function. Ironic.