Shelach - Send: And we were sent along our Journey
Shelach Number 13:1 - 15:41
In summation, during this Parshah:
Leaders of each of the twelve tribes is gathered and sent to “scout or spy” the Land of Canaan. They are directed by Moses to return with valuable logistical information that would be useful upon their entering and conquering the land; and to bring back samples of the harvested fruit.
Forty days later, the twelve return identifying only three of the seven kinds of fruit. Ten of the twelve scouts state before Moses, Aaron and the whole congregation that the land was truly flowing with Milk and Honey and of the fruits which they carried, but that the land would consume its inhabitants - that in essence, they “were more powerful than we”. Only Caleb and Joshua insisted that the land could be conquered just as G-D had commanded. Upon hearing this news, the people weep stating that they would prefer to return to Egypt.
The following Day is Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, a very ominous day for the people of Israel. And according to the Ibn Ezra in his Resheit Chochma 7, on this day the planet Saturn seemed to be touching the dark side of the Moon. As we know from the Chazal in Midrash Tehillim 22, the Jewish Nation is likened to the Moon, and the planet Saturn is considered (according to Reishit Chochma 4) to be their astrological sign1.
Additional ominous events which occurred on Tisha B’Av are: 1313 BCE The People weep that they would prefer to return to Egypt than enter the Holy Land 423 BCE The First Temple was Destroyed 69 CE The Second Temple was Destroyed 133 CE The Defeat of the Jewish Rebels against the Romans at the final Battle of Betar 1290 CE Jews were expelled from England 1492 CE Day on which Jews could no longer remain in Spain 1914 CE Day that the First World War began (Historian believe that WWII is conclusion of WWI)
Also during this Parshah; - Hoshea Ben Nun (Joshua), becomes YoHoshea through the insertion of the letter “Yud” by Moses. - A group of remorseful Israelites storms the Mountain on the border of the Holy Land and is defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites. - The Laws of the Menachot, to bring grain and wine offerings with animal sacrifices. - The mitzvah to consecrate a portion of dough (Challah) while making bread. - The Laws pertaining to the offerings required to atone for the sin of idolatry. - Gathering sticks is a violation of the Shabbat. - We are commanded to place fringes or Tzitzit on the four corners of our garments.
But I would like to focus on three points: That three of seven fruit types were identified; The reason behind the description of the scouts; The punishment of the scouts/spies.
To better understand these, it is important to recall our purpose, as to why we are here. We have just completed the 49 Day cycle of spiritual purification during the period of The Omer. We have also just received The Torah during the holiday of Shavuot. So we went from the 49th level of impurity, to a level of purity where we obtained the blueprint or set of guidelines to help us to become conduits of G-D’s love - so as to make this world a home for G-D.
From the Exodus to Shavuot, our journey has been one of Spiritual Cleansing and Receivership. What is the old adage … “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Well, always studying without sharing or acting upon that which we have learned - produces nothing. Entering the Holy Land is the next step of providing us with an outlet for al that we have learned.
This was the concern of the Ten Scouts when they stated that “the land would consume its inhabitants”. These Scouts were all Righteous Men, Tzaddikim, who realized that upon entering the Holy Land, all of the physical needs for which they required during their sojourn in the dessert, would now have to be obtained through their own efforts and not through Divine sustenance. This would detract them from their spiritual journey, and therefore they stated that they would prefer to stay in the dessert.
But the forgot or ignored one mandate that was given to them at Sinai, that of Bringing Heaven to Erath and Earth to Heaven. Because though obtaining spirituality brings Heaven to Earth, only fulfilling the commandments in the physical/material world is able to elevate that physical object to a higher spiritual level. Again, the commandments are a blue print on how to bring our Earthly physical selves and the objects around us to a higher spiritual plane so that there can be harmony. By using physical objects for the purpose for which they were derived and within the manner or context for which they were derived, the Divine essence of that object can be realized/released. Entering into the Holy Land is just the next logical step.
The Holy Land becomes the testing ground. But we all have our testing grounds, and that is the physical world within which we live and work and play. The scouts did not realize, that which the subsequent generation did, and that which we are now living; which is that G-D’s essence can be found by fulfilling his commandments in all of the physical actions and endeavors and mundane routines of our daily lives.
The commandments are guidelines for us to follow; as the sages state: At first Follow the commandments; then Learn why they should be followed; then Teach them to others. Though we may not know value of all the commandments, they are there to bring Heaven to Earth … and Earth to Heaven.
Miriam, The Spies and Speaking in Conjecture In the previous parshah, Miriam was quarantined for seven days and this week the ten spies were punished. According to Rashi studies of this parshah2, both parties committed the same sin but because the ten spies should have learned from Miriam’s punishment, and seemingly did not, then their punishment was dealt out more severely. The sin committed: Bringing out in public, a discussion on a sensitive and to some extent private matter, where a lack of direct information could miscommunicate the intended message.
Miriam spoke openly regarding the separation of Moses to his wife, without knowing all of the details, and without communicating directly and solely to Moses himself. The spies, concerned about the new direction, away from sustained spirituality brought their concerns to all of the congregation, instead of to Moses directly. The delivery of their message created a misunderstanding to the congregants which potentially elicited an erroneous response and causing them to wander for an additional 39 years in the dessert.
What we learn from these two incidents is that, speaking openly about matters of either a sensate or personal nature causes misunderstanding/confusion and a reactive scenario. That the more people involved, the greater the potential error in judgment, and the greater the severity of the resulting reactive action.
3 of 7 The seven kinds of fruit are: Wheat, Barely, Grapes, Figs, Pomegranates, Oil and Dates. Wheat is a basic Human staple and represents are divine aspirations (Heaven to Earth) Barely is a basic Animal staple and represents the cultivation of our animal drive (Earth to Heaven) Grapes make wine which brings Joy (Judges 9:13) which is the emotion or drive of ourselves Figs are the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and is Knowledge Pomegranates are compartmentalized fruit, many good deeds but not complementing our whole or even our individual components. Oil is derived from pressing the Olive fruit and therefore represents the struggle or dichotomy between our animal and divine souls. Dates represent perfection and harmony. There is a species of date palm that bears fruit only after its 70th year-as the human character is comprised of seven basic sefirot each with 10 sub-sefirot or attributes.
The ten spies brought the Grapes, Joshua carried the Fig and Caleb carried the Pomegranate. Joshua presented knowledge, Caleb individuality, and the other ten spies based their presentation to the congregation on raw emotion, which without consideration for the situation or any perceived repercussions, presented an inaccurate data to the congregation, who reacted prematurely and sinned.
Moses requested that samples from all seven fruits be brought. The seven would have demonstrated to the congregation that in juxtaposition with their next step of bring Earth to Heaven, all of their requirements and all of the required tools would be at their disposal.
Conclusion We learn much from this parshah, but the step that I would like to leave you with is that, we are in position to enter the Holy Land, or that which the Holy Land represents for us today. We have just accomplished preparing ourselves as vessels or conduits of G-D’s energy.
We have moved from the position where we ourselves considered ourselves (as in Egypt/Mitzrayim) as the source of everything that occurs around us to understanding that all energy and all that is derived there from comes from G-D directly, and that we are conduits or channels to receive and direct this energy to that which is around us.
We subsequently received the Torah last week during Shavuot, which gave us the blueprint on how to receive this energy from Heaven to Earth and on how to channel this energy around us so as to bring Earth to Heaven.
This week, we learn where to direct this energy. It is in the physical world around us. It is in our daily lives at home with family and friends, it is at work, and it is in all of the actions which we take from the mundane to the exciting.
We realize that in order to succeed we must in the mandate from Sinai that we must partake of the seven fruits. We must:
- Aspire to achieve all that we can (Wheat-Heaven to Earth) - Share our aspirations through action to those around us (Barely-Earth to Heaven) - Be joyous and full of positive emotion as we share our selves (Grapes) - Be knowledgeable in all that we do (Figs) - To not live in a vacuum or act out of discord with our true nature (Pomegranate) - That the struggle we endure between that which we should do and that which we want to do-only makes us stronger (Pressed Oil) - And that as time goes on a balance will be achieved between our spiritual and animal essences, and that we will be at peace.
May the Light of Heaven flow clearly, and may your Light shine brightly. Shabbat Shalom