parashas Shelach 5781 – self esteem

parashas Shelach 5781

“Send men, that they may spy the land of Canaan which I give to the people Israel”

  • Numbers 13:1

The actual phrase used, shelach lecha means send out for yourself or send out according to your own understanding; this is a clue to what transpired, before H’Shem gave the commandment to send out the spies. The full account is given later in Torah: “And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said: ‘Let us send men before us, that they may search the land for us, and bring us back word of the way by which we must go up, and the cities unto which we shall come” (Deuteronomy 1:22, JPS 1917 Tanach).

So, the people, had previously been told to take possession of the land, “as the L-RD, the G-d of thy fathers, hath spoken unto thee; fear not, neither be dismayed”(Deuteronomy 1:21, JPS). However, they wanted reassurance on their own terms, that they would be able to take the land; hence, they were more interested in making an assessment of their own, to discern whether or not they could do so: rather than fully trusting in H’Shem, that He would lead the way. What they did not realize is that, H’Shem would fight for them; therefore, they should not have been concerned about forming a military strategy for battle against the local inhabitants.


Moreover, except for Joshua and Caleb, who had “a different spirit,” the other spies –ten of them –gave an ill report of the land; furthermore, they convinced the people that it would be futile to make an attempt to take possession of the land, at that time, inasmuch that there were giants there. The Torah states that the ten spies said, “We saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who came of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13: 33, JPS).


In other words, in their own estimation of themselves, they saw themselves as grasshoppers, as compared to the giants; and they perceived that the giants also saw them as small and inconsequential. They lost confidence in themselves, and in H’Shem; and the lack of the morale spread to the rest of the people. Consequently, the people refused to make an attempt to conquer the land at that moment in time. Yet, for ourselves, today, if we know that H’Shem supports us in our good endeavors, we should trust in Him, and not in ourselves, so that our efforts may be brought to fruition.

Reflections: Important Findings

B”H

April 13, 2020 (19 Nissan 2020)

The Intermediate days (Chol HaMoed) of Pesach occur within the of the yom tov (festival days; literally, “good days”) of Passover. The first two and last two days of Passover (outside of Israel) are like bookends for Chol HaMoed. These intermediate days have less holiness; yet, they are still part of the overall holiday of Passover.

I think that this is less known by many who do not celebrate Passover. Outside of Israel, there are eight days of Passover. Even of those amongst us, who celebrate Passover, there are some who may be less aware of maintaining a certain level of respect towards the Intermediate days. Honoring Pesach goes beyond having a seder, or two for the more observant. And, we all continue to eat matzoh for a full eight days.

The Biblical consequence for not doing so is strict: kares. This Hebrew word means to be cut off, as in to be cut off from one’s people. Yet, the exact implication is not necessarily to be somehow cut off from one’s people in this world (Olam HaZeh); rather, according the chazal (the sages), kares means to be cut off in the next world (Olam HaBa). In other words, the consequence is eternal separation.

Many of us who receive the modern day understanding of Judaism as a religion that focuses primarily on this world will miss the point. There are eternal consequences for our actions. What we do in this world will influence our place in Olam HaBa (the World to Come). Therefore, abstaining from chometz (leavened foods) on Pesach is crucial.

Additionally, there must be some understanding beyond the surface of this commandment. According to various rabbinical commentaries, chometz represents sin, pride, and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). Removing these from our lives is integral to our souls. We may abstain from aveiros (transgressions) by being aware of what constitutes sin. We may humble ourselves, to lessen our sense of self importance. And, we may diminish the influence of our yetzer hara by focusing on H’Shem and mitzvot (good deeds).

In like manner that we search for and remove all remaining chometz from our homes, before Passover starts, so should we look for the hidden faults in our character and way of life, not only during Passover, rather, also throughout the entire year. Finding out our own deficiencies is necessary in order to make a change for the better. May our resultant level of kedusha (holiness) prepare us to receive Moshiach (Messiah). Next Year in Jerusalem.

Passover Reflections

B”H

14 Nissan 5780

March 8, 2020

Passover preparations, ideally performed in a meticulous manner, especially in regard to removing any speck of chometz (leavened products) that might be left after removing items like breads and cereals from the cupboards, may be viewed as a transition from ordinary time into redemptive time.

The seder, a traditional 2-4 hour meal, inclusive of various foods eaten for their symbolic value, plus the reading of the Hagaddah (Exodus narrative, embellished with songs and commentaries), is the way we relive our Redemption from slavery in Egypt. Each food represents part of the experience leading towards Redemption.

The search for chometz, in and of itself, is symbolic. Chometz represents sin, pride, and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). As meticulous as we may be in our search for crumbs, we need to look inside ourselves, as well, in order to bring to light what lurks in the darkness of our personalities. Then, we may transition from being enslaved to our yetzer hara, into the freedom of our redemptive selves, wherein we seek to follow our yetzer tov (good inclination).

“Depart from evil, and do good;

seek peace, and pursue it.”

– Psalm 34:14, JPS 1917 Tanach