Torah Weekly

For the week ending 14 June 2014 / 16 Sivan 5774

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 World is a Mirror

“Send for yourselves...” (13-2)

There’s an axiom in creative photography that a photographer doesn’t photograph what he sees. He photographs who he is.

The motivation to capture a specific event or landscape or face, on film or in pixels, has much to do with the resonance that our internal reality finds in the outside world.

The world of art finds paradigms in the external world for internal realities. This is one of the wellsprings of creative art. However, the basis of this idea goes much further back than photography.

It is said in name of the Baal Shem Tov that all we see around us is like a mirror of who we are.

G-d shows us who we are through what we see.

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 15:5) asks why the Torah juxtaposes the section that deals with the sin of the Spies with the section of Miriam’s punishment. Ostensibly they are unconnected. The Midrash answers that Miriam was punished for speaking lashon hara about her brother, Moshe — “and these rashaim, (evil people) saw this but failed to take the lesson to heart,” for the Spies spoke lashon hara about the Land of Israel.

They saw Miriam’s punishment and it failed to impact on their internal world; they failed to see that they were looking into a mirror.

But why were they called “rashaim”? At that point in the story they were righteous people, the leaders of the nation.

The generation of the desert was on the highest level since Adam harishon (the first man). They should have realized that G-d had shown them the punishment of Miriam to draw a lesson from it: that they too were vulnerable to the sin of lashon hara and to guard themselves accordingly.

Similarly, in Parshat Nasso the Torah juxtaposes the sin of the Sotah (a wife suspected of adultery) with the Nazir (someone who takes a vow of abstinence) to teach us that anyone who sees the punishment of a Sotah should take a vow to temporarily abstain from wine, for he sees to where indulgence in wine leads.

The world about us is but a mirror to ourselves.

  • Sources: (Alei Shor, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, Part One, Page 137; thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Greenwald)

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