Torah Portion: Sh’lach
Blessing of the New Month of Tammuz
This is a very busy Torah portion. Moses sends the twelve spies into the land of Canaan, asking them to report back to him what they saw. They returned after forty days and, with the exception of two (Joshua and Caleb), ten of them reported that it would be impossible to conquer the land due to the strength of the people and the giants living there.
Their lack of faith and trust in G-d, Who promised to give them the Land, influenced the people and they too refused to enter into the Promised Land. As a result, G-d decreed that every male over the age of twenty at that time would not go into the Promised Land.
We also get the mitzvahs of taking challah and wearing tzitzis. I found some interesting information about wearing Tzitzit thanks to Rabbi Zalman Marozov:
The Torah states the reason for the mitzvah of Tzitzit, “So that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the L-rd”. By exposing the Tzitzit, one can “look upon it” and thus “remember” all the mitzvot.
How does one remember all the Mitzvot (commandments) when looking at the Tzitzit?
There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Tzitzit (90+10+90+10+400) is 600. Each of the Tzitzit has 8 strings and 5 knots. Together (5+8) they add up to 613 which is the total amount of mitzvot.
Back to the spies. Believe it or not, this incident took place a little more than a year after the Jews had received the Torah at Mount Sinai, worshiped the Golden Calf, been forgiven, and built the Tabernacle where G‑d’s presence was to dwell.
The spies were the cream of Israeli society, so why did they come back and tell Moses that the land devours its inhabitants? Not only that, but they did this in front of everyone, creating, we are guessing, a mass panic situation.
The truth is, the spies had the best of intentions in what they reported. The problem was that in the desert they lived a totally spiritual life. What they saw in the land of Canaan was that those days were over. They would have to work for a living, planting, sowing and harvesting.
Ultimately, the spies were wrong. G-d created the world to be a dwelling place for all of us, with all of our failings, foibles, weaknesses, desires, hopes and dreams.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a place of perfection, although I’m thinking it would be a bit boring? G-d created the world with tests and challenges for us. We need be prepared but we also need to have faith in G-d. There needs to be a balance between structure and creativity, between following G-d’s rules and being ourselves.
It’s not always easy as there are times when we don’t quite get what G-d has in mind. But, as we were born and are here in this world, each of us has our own personal mission to fulfil, one personally created by G-d for each of us. This is where the spies failed, and this one of the lessons from this week’s Torah portion for us today.