Torah Weekly

For the week ending 12 June 2004 / 23 Sivan 5764

Parshat Shlach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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At the insistence of Bnei Yisrael, and with G-d's permission, Moshe sends 12 scouts, one from each tribe, to investigate Canaan. Anticipating trouble, Moshe changes Hoshea's name to Yehoshua, expressing a prayer that G-d not let him fail in his mission. They return 40 days later, carrying unusually large fruit. When 10 of the 12 state that the people in Canaan are as formidable as the fruit, the men are discouraged. Calev and Yehoshua, the only two scouts still in favor of the invasion, try to bolster the people's spirit. The nation, however, decides that the Land is not worth the potentially fatal risks, and instead demands a return to Egypt. Moshe's fervent prayers save the nation from Heavenly annihilation. However, G-d declares that they must remain in the desert for 40 years until the men who wept at the scouts' false report pass away. A remorseful group rashly begins an invasion of the Land based on G-d's original command. Moshe warns them not to proceed, but they ignore this and are massacred by the Amalekites and Canaanites. G-d instructs Moshe concerning the offerings to be made when Bnei Yisrael will finally enter the Land. The people are commanded to remove challa, a gift for the kohanim, from their dough. The laws for an offering after an inadvertent sin, for an individual or a group, are explained. However, should someone blaspheme against G-d and be unrepentant, he will be cut off spiritually from his people. One man is found gathering wood on public property in violation of the laws of Shabbat and he is executed. The laws of tzitzit are taught. We recite the section about the tzitzit twice a day to remind ourselves of the Exodus.


The Wolf And The Fox

"recalling the sins of the fathers on the children" (14:18)

Once there was a ravenous wolf that was about to devour a fox. The fox said to him, "What good is my skinny carcass going to do you? Look over there at that nice juicy human with his body so laden with meat and fat! Better to eat him. Hes much more of a meal than I!" The wolf answered "It is forbidden for us to eat humans. In the end I will get punished for it." "Dont worry about it!" replied the sly fox, "You wont get punished. Only your children will get punished, as it says "The fathers ate sour grapes, but it is the teeth of the sons that are set on edge." (Jeremiah 31:28)

Instead of being highly surprised and somewhat cautious of a fox that could quote Tanach by heart, the wolf instead fell for this line of reasoning and, licking his lips, he made off towards the man. No sooner had he taken a few paces, than he fell into a carefully concealed trap and found himself plunging towards the bottom of a deep pit. Following the bitter cries of the wolf, the fox made his way carefully to the edge of the pit. The wolf wailed up at the fox "You liar! You said that only my children would be punished and not I! Answered the fox "Fool that you are! This punishment isnt because of what you did. Its because of what your father did before you." The wolf cried out in a bitter voice, "How can that be possible? I have to suffer for the sins of my father?" Replied the fox with a wry smile, "You were prepared to devour a man though you knew your children would suffer for it in the future, so why should you complain for getting punished now for what your father did before you?"

With this parable from the book "The Parables of Foxes," we can perhaps understand a difficult verse in the weekly Torah portion. For where indeed is the justice in G-d "recalling the iniquity of the fathers on the children?"

Even if the children perpetuate the misdeeds of their fathers, shouldnt they be punished for their own sins only, and not for those of their forbears? Why should they be responsible for their fathers behavior?

However, if the children understand that their misdeeds can cause their own children to suffer, they can have no complaint when they themselves must pay for the sins of their fathers.

  • Source: based on Pardes Yosef in Mayana Shel Torah

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