Shelach

תשע”ט פ’ שלח

Volume 29, Issue 4

INSIGHTS from the SEDRA

Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.         

ויקרא משה להושע בן נון יהושע

“And Moshe called Hoshea bin Nun, Yehoshua…” (13:16)

A midrash teaches that when Hashem changed the name “Sarai” to “Sarah”, He allocated the displaced yud for Yehoshua’s name. The connection between Yehoshua and Sarah was hardly incidental. I would like to homiletically suggest that it would not have been possible for Yehoshua to transfer Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people without first having internalized certain hashkafot, outlooks and values, of our matriarch Sarah.

In fact, these were hashkafot specific to Sarah but not to Avraham. What I refer to is Sarah’s unequivocal and clear belief that Eretz Yisrael is ours…and that no other individual or nation has any portion in it whatsoever. Sarah demanded (Bereshit 21:10) Cast out that servant-woman and her son, for the son of that servant shall not share in the inheritance with my son, Isaac. She was saying that neither Yishmael nor his descendants have any portion whatsoever in Eretz Yisrael. Nothing. Not a single dunam from one border to the other.

Yehoshua, who was chosen by Hashem to lead the Jewish people to conquer Eretz Yisrael, received part of his name from Sarah precisely so that he not forget her plea to Avraham: that Yishmael be expelled and not receive any inheritance in the land. The Torah continues and says that Hashem judges Sarah to be correct. Avraham was told: All that Sarah tells you, listen to her.

Just as it was then, so it must be today: Let us be determined to have full faith, just like Sarah, that Eertz Yisrael in its absolute entirety is ours. And ours alone. The descendants of Yishmael have no right to any part of it. And, when the time comes that Hashem will be pleased with His people, we will have nothing to fear from the nations of the world.          (Rabbi Nison Alpert)

ויהיו בני ישראל במדבר וימצאו איש מקשש עצים ביום השבת

“And the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and they found a man gathering wood on Shabbos…” (15:32)

All the events recorded in the parsha occurred while the Jews were in the wilderness. Why then was it necessary for this episode of the wood gatherer on Shabbos to begin with the phrase “and the Jews were in the wilderness”?

The Gemara (Shabbos 96a) relates that the wood gatherer transgressed the prohibition of transporting an item four cubits in reshut harabim – public domain. This might seem odd, as a desert does not qualify as a reshut harabim since people do not usually travel there. However, the Gemara (Shabbos 6b) states that when the Jewish people were in the wilderness, after their exodus from Egypt, it qualified as a reshut harabim, due to the vast number of people found there at that time. Therefore, to prevent one from wondering why the wood gatherer was punished, the Torah mentions that the Jewish people were then found in the wilderness, thus qualifying it as a reshut harabim.                                                                                                                                                         (Ohr HaChaim)

וירגמו אתו באבנים

“And they pelted him to death with stones…” (15:36)

                The stoning of the man who gathered wood on Shabbos, is described as “vayirgmu oto ba’avanim”, “stones,” in the plural. By contrast, in the case of the blasphemer, the stoning is described as “vayirgimu oto aven” – “stone” (Vayikra 24:23), in the singular.What is the reason for the variant forms?

                One opinion in the midrash suggests that the gatherer of wood on Shabbos committed his sin for the glory of Hashem. For after the sin of the spies, when Bnei Yisrael were barred from entering Eretz Yisrael, there were many people who thought all mitzvot had lost their validity. To preclude this erroneous idea, he intentionally gathered wood and violated Shabbos, so that he would be punished, and everyone would clearly see that all the mitzvot were still in force.

                Others  disagree, contending that the mekosheish – gatherer of wood, had no such lofty purpose in mind. At the time of the stoning, each person throwing a stone had a different opinion of the mekosheish, which accounts for the use of the plural, avanim. Conversely, at the stoning of the blasphemer, it was clear to everyone present that he meant to curse and vilify Hashem. Hence, aven, written in the singular.                                                                                                                (Rabbi Meir Shapiro)

                                                                                                                      ונתנו על ציצת הכנף פסיל תכלת

“And they shall place upon the tzitzit of each corner a thread of turquoise wool…” (15:38)

                The Gemara (Chullin 89a) teaches: Why was t’cheles chosen as the color for the mitzvah of tzitzit? Rav Meir explains because t’cheiles is similar to the color of the sea; the sea is similar to the color to the firmament; the firmament is similar in color to the Sapir stone, which is similar in color to the Kisei HaKavod. Wearing tzitzit is supposed to remind us of the Kisei HaKavod. Why doesn’t the verse say directly that the color of tzitzit is to remind us of the color of the Kisei HaKavod?

                Here, we discover a fundamental lesson in ruchniyos – true spirituality. In order to succeed and sustain high spiritual levels, we must accomplish each level step by step. One step in the right direction leads us to another step in that direction until we can attain lofty levels of holiness. This is the way to reach the Kisei HaKavod.                                                                                                            (Drash Moshe)

                A wise man would say: “We exist on this world through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.”