Torah Weekly

For the week ending 9 June 2018 / 26 Sivan 5778

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 againstG-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.


Seeing is Believing

"And you will see it, and you will remember all the commandments of G-d" (15:39)

There’s an interesting grammatical anomaly in this week’s Torah portion. When describing the mitzvah of the tzitzit, the fringes that must be attached to a four-cornered garment, the Torah says: “It will be for you tzitzit, and you will see it, and you will remember all the commandments of G-d, and perform them.”

Ostensibly, the Torah should have written, "You will see them," referring to the tzitzit strings in the plural. The spiritual masters (Menachot 43b) explain that the phrase"and you will see it" can also be read as "and you will see Him". This would mean that when someone does this mitzvah with all the appropriate intention and concentration, it has the power to open his eyes to the Divine Presence, the Shechina — "and you will see Him".

This idea is expressed in the physical shape of the mitzvah itself. The tzitzit threads are attached to the edges of a four-cornered garment. The four corners represent the four points of the compass which represent the limits of this world. Attached to the edge of this world is something that can take you beyond the world — the tzitzit.

Maybe that’s why the mitzvah of tzitzit is considered equal to all the other mitzvot. The mitzvot are given to us to take us beyond this world. The tzitzit are a graphic representation of that which stretches out beyond the four corners of this world.

For that same reason, if you add the gematria (numerical value) of the word tzitzit (600) to the eight strings and the five knots that comprise the tzitzit, the total is 613, which equals the total number of the mitzvot.

Finally, the word tzitzit is connected to "lehazitz," which means "to peek." Tzitzit allow you a "peek" beyond — beyond the fringe.

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