Torah Weekly

For the week ending 16 June 2012 / 25 Sivan 5772

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 reconnoiter 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 Disease To Please

“…we were like grasshoppers in their eyes…” (13:33)

Two actors are sitting in a beat-up coffee shop on Sunset Strip.

One is telling the other about the jobs he almost got, the jobs his agent messed up on, the jobs he should have got but he was too old, he was too young, too dark, too tall, too short. He carries on like this for about twenty minutes. Then he pauses and says to the other, "Okay, that's enough about me. Now you talk about me for a while."

I remember a school friend who used to spend a good ten minutes on his hair in the mirror trying to achieve a spontaneous effect.

It's not just that narcissism is a very obvious and unattractive aspect of conceit, but it places someone in a world of reaction instead of action.

When we fall prey to the desire for the approbation of others, every decision becomes tainted with the disease to please. Rather than consider what is right, we may be equally or even more concerned about how it will look, how it will read to others.

Our age has even invented a profession for people whose job is to gauge and garner the approval of the masses – the Spin Doctor. Just like a doctor, the Spin Doctor diagnoses and prescribes. He diagnoses how a political decision will be received and he prescribes how to get the masses to swallow the medicine.

The task of the Jewish People is to be the emissaries of G-d in this world.

G-d's imprimatur is pure unvarnished truth.

As the verse states, "G-d is a G-d of Truth." The Hebrew word for "truth" is emet. Emet consists of the first, the middle, and the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Truth is only true if it is true at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. If you 'spin' it to the side anywhere along the line – it's not what the Torah calls true.

“We were like grasshoppers in their (the giants’) eyes…”

The Kotzker Rebbe identifies this line in this week's Torah reading as the root of the spies' sin. Why were the spies thinking about how they looked to the giants?

As the emissaries of the Jewish People – and as Jews themselves – they should have had no interest other than to bring back an accurate report about the Land. Who cares about what other people thought about them?

The mere fact that they viewed themselves from the outside skewed their judgment and led them to create a world of illusion - a self-produced movie - which resulted in the greatest debacle in Jewish history.

All because of a little preening in the mirror.

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