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Shelach Summaries

Shelach 5777-2017

“The Slave Mentality”

Without faith, the people cannot overcome their fears that are stoked by a slave mentality. This is not a people who can succeed in the Promised Land. Only a new generation, who have a relationship with the Al-mighty based on a loving faith will enter the land.

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Shelach 5776-2016

“A Name Change Becomes a Game Changer”

By changing the name of Hoshea to Joshua, Moses also changes Joshua’s personal powers and his ultimate destiny.

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Shelach 5775-2015

“The Sin of the Spies–Revisited”

The Baal HaTanya suggests that the sin of the scouts was due to their desire to live in a false utopian world of total spirituality, in the full embrace of the Al-mighty, rather than to have to engage in the real world where they would earn their bread by the sweat of their brow.

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Shelach 5774-2014

“Do Not Follow After the Desires of Your Heart and Eyes”

The Torah in parashat Shelach conveys a cogent and relevant message for our times. Despite the important values of open-mindedness and freedom of expression, for our own survival, humankind must be taught that there are limits. We must not simply pursue the unchecked desires of our hearts and eyes that lead us astray, and often result in the destruction of the fabric of society.

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Shelach 5773-2013

Tzitzit: The Unpretentious Mitzvah”

Tzitzit, the mitzvah of wearing fringes on four-cornered garments, has many facets and multiple contemporary implications.

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Shelach 5772-2012

“Had I Only Known!”

How sad it is that many of us fail to consider the long-range implications of our evil deeds and our inadequate actions.

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Shelach 5771-2011

Challah–-All Possessions Are From the L-rd”

Why do the laws regarding idolatry in the Torah follow the portion regarding the mitzvah of “Challah” (giving a portion of dough to the priests)? The Midrash suggests that it comes to teach that fulfilling the mitzvah of Challah serves as a powerful denial of the efficacy of idolatry.

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Shelach 5770-2010

“Was the Sin of the Scouts Greater than the Sin of the Golden Calf?”

G-d forgives the people for the sin of the Golden Calf, but not when the scouts return with an evil report about the land of Canaan. Is it possible that the sin of the scouts was greater than the sin of the Golden Calf?

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Shelach 5769-2009

“Long-Term Consequences”

When the ancient Israelites heard the evil reports of the ten scouts, they stayed up all night and cried. The Talmud states that G-d reacted to this crying by declaring “You cried for no reason, I will give you good cause to cry.” That very day, the 9th of Av, was consequently designated in Jewish history as a day of evil in which many calamities occurred, including the destruction of both Temples. Although G-d forgave the young generation of the wilderness, He still held the people accountable for what they had done. Contemporary Jews must also consider the role they play and the long-term consequences of their actions.

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Shelach 5768-2008

“We Were like Grasshoppers in Our Eyes”

There is grave danger in the Jewish people seeing themselves as helpless and powerless. Very often this self-perception is a self-fulfilling reality. The ancient scouts saw themselves as pygmies and grasshoppers and were perceived by others as impotent and weak. We dare not allow that to happen to our generation. Strong leadership depends upon our faith in G-d and own self-confidence and self-esteem.

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Shelach 5767-2007

“The Ma’ah’peelim: Forcing Their Way Into the Promised Land”

Because of the evil reports of the ten scouts recorded in parashat Shelach, G-d decrees that the generation of the wilderness shall not enter the land of Israel. Nevertheless, the next morning, a large group of people arise early to force their way up the mountain toward Canaan and are smitten by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. These rebels are known as the “Ma’ah’peelim.” Why were they not allowed into the land of Israel, and why were they punished so severely?

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Shelach 5766-2006

“Who was Caleb?”

Upon returning from scouting the Land of Israel, only two of the twelve tribal representatives, Joshua and Caleb, refuse to go along with the negative report of the scouts. Of the two, only Caleb confronted the popular leaders publicly. What was the source of Caleb’s amazing strength and moral courage?

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Shelach 5765-2005

“Bread Alone”

On the heels of the grievous sin of the scouts, G-d forbids an entire generation of men, 20 years old and up, to enter the land of Israel. Strangely, the story of the scouts is followed immediately by two Torah portions that focus specifically on Israel–sacrifice and libations, and the giving of challah. The law of challah required that a portion of dough from every loaf of bread that is baked be given to the Priest. This gift of challah, underscores the primacy of sustaining our teachers and spiritual leaders and maintaining the excellence of Jewish education throughout the generations, even in the diaspora.

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Shelach 5764-2004

“Where Did the Spies Go Wrong?”

The Malbim, Rabbi Meir Yehudah Leibish, 1809-1879, offers a radically different interpretation of the story of the scouts. He proves that while the ten leaders begin as scouts, looking for the best lands for their individual tribes, they wind up as spies with a strategic military focus. As they travel through the land, their self-image changes. Losing faith and courage, they conclude that the people of Israel will never be able to take over the land of Canaan from the land’s fearsome inhabitants.

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Shelach 5763-2003

“Can Human Beings Achieve Immortality?”

On the heels of being informed that they will not enter the land of Israel, G-d tells Moses to instruct the people that upon entering the Promised Land they are to bring sacrifices with special wheat, oil and wine offerings. It seems rather cruel of G-d to rub salt into the wounds of the people by giving them instructions that they will never be capable of fulfilling. Perhaps the Torah is really telling these very same individuals that they can achieve immortality. While the Al-mighty informs the generation of the wilderness that they will perish, they learn that they will live on through their children who will be loyal to the faith system of Israel and will joyously celebrate and sacrifice in the land of Israel.

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Shelach 5762-2002

“What’s in a Name?”

Unexpectedly, the Torah spells out the names of each of the twelve leaders who were sent to represent their tribes and scout out the land of Israel. However, when we compare the names of these individuals with the names of the princes who were selected in Numbers Chapter 1 to help Moses count the tribes, we see something rather startling. The names of the princes are far more complex, and contain many more symbolisms. They are substantial names for substantial people. The names of the scouts on the other hand are very short. The names of the princes have many references to G-d. The names of the scouts have few references to G-d. What is the message that the names communicate?

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Shelach 5761-2001

“The Torah’s Definition of Power”

After the sin of the scouts, G-d wishes to destroy the Jewish people. Moses, however, argues with G-d that true “power” means not to destroy, but to forgive, to convert and to transfer from one strongly held attitude to another. G-d and Moses thus ascribe a new meaning to the concept of “power.”

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Shelach 5760-2000

“Finding Meaning in the Rituals”

In parashat Shelach we read the well-known third paragraph of the Shema prayer concerning the tzitzit, the fringes. It is one thing to profess love of G-d and to accept responsibility and accountability. But the bottom line is: actions! By emphasizing the ritual of tzitzit, fringes, our sages tell us that the bottom line in our relationship with G-d is how we act toward Him. Professing our love for Him and accepting responsibility and accountability is simply not enough. This, once again, confirms that in Judaism, “rituals work”–they really do.

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