Sh’lach L’cha / Go For Yourself
Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haf Torah Joshua 2:1-24
Brit Chadasha Hebrews 3:7-19

       Sh’lach L’cha contains several items of importance, which all seem to stem from the very beginning of this parsha.  In chapter thirteen, God instructs Moses to send out twelve men to explore the land. In chapter fourteen, Israel refuses to enter Canaan due to the bad report. The people rebel and Moses intercedes, sparing their immediate death but not the death sentence of dying in the wilderness, resulting in a pathetic invasion attempt without the instructions coming from God.
    In chapter fifteen there are the laws concerning the drink and grain offering (where we get the traditional Erev Shabbat challa), laws concerning unintentional and presumptuous sins, the penalty for Sabbath breaking and the laws about the tassels on the garments. 
    At the beginning of this Torah portion, God instructs Moshe to send out twelve men to explore the land.  The translators have misinterpreted the Hebrew word used here and substituted it as ‘spy’. Biblical Hebrew has two verbs that mean “to spy”: lachpor and leragel (from which we get the word meraglim, “spies”). Neither of these words appear in this parsha. Instead, twelve times, we read the rare verb, la-tur. This verb has been revived in modern Hebrew and means and sounds like “to tour.” Tayar is a tourist. There is a big difference between a tourist and a spy. The Hebrew word Latur means to seek out the good. That is what tourists do. They go to the beautiful, the magnificent, the inspiring. They don’t spend their time trying to find out what is bad. Lachpor and leragel are the opposite. They are about discovering a place’s weaknesses, vulnerabilities or impenetrable fortresses. That is what spies do: try to uncover the negative. The exclusive use of the verb latur in Sh’lach L’cha – repeated twelve times – is there to tell us that the twelve men were not sent to spy but to see the land that God was blessing them with. Their mission was latur: to explore and report on the good things of the land so that the people would know it was worth fighting for. Sadly, only two men understood and didn’t change their mission.






שׁלח · לְ · אַתָּה




וְ · תור

send · for · you




and · explore

send · for · you




and · let them explore

       From the above graph, we see the Hebrew word, la tur/ to explore. This word has been mistranslated into ‘spy’.   
        Where was the impulse coming from that made the ten men return with a negative report? This can go back to the Scripture Exodus 13:17-18 ‘Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt." So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.’ Was it fear? 
    For that mission, the Israelites did not need to spy the land, as Moshe said many years later: “You did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.” Deuteronomy 1:32-33.
    This negative report brought back from the ten men caused division and rebellion within the camp.  It was the catalyst to the rebellion, resulting in that generation, excluding Caleb and Joshua, dying in the wilderness after wandering for forty years.  Numbers 14:1-4 ‘So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.’
   The bad report would have died in its disgrace – if others wouldn’t have swallowed the report without first verifying the facts. There will always be the negative report, but it is up to God’s people to remember that it is God who fights the battle. 
    Proverbs 21:28 ‘A false witness shall perish, but the man who hears him will speak endlessly.
    Romans 16:17-18 ‘Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Messiah, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.’
    Proverbs 14:15-18 ‘The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.
A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated. 18 The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.’
    This parsha continues in chapter fifteen with the laws concerning unintentional sin and purposeful sin.  It is called presumptuous. Isn’t that what the ten were guilty of?  Eventually they were cut off. Numbers 15:30-31 ‘But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’ 
    Sh’lach L’cha ends with the directives for Sabbath breaking and tzit-tzits.  So often, criticism from non-Torah observant believers stem from this verse, Numbers 15:32-36, the stoning of a Sabbath breaker. Their question might be, “So, do we stone people now?”  
    Of course not. But this is the example of how serious the Shabbat was and still is to the Almighty. The Shabbat is a holy day, sanctified by God.  How can one unholy a day God has deemed holy? Again, the mission, the purpose was and is to keep and guard the Shabbat. Those that negate the Sabbath, the holiness of the seventh day, negate God and His creation. They come with a negative report, ‘the Sabbath was changed to Sunday’ (although there is no Scripture that verifies their argument). 
    The Catholic church has been so convincing, so swaying in their negativity of God’s Word that over the centuries they were able to sway hundreds of denominations and millions of people to rebel against God’s Word and deny the Shabbat.  They believed the negative report.
    Genesis 2:3 ‘Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy…’
    Exodus 20:8 ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.’
    Isaiah 58:13-14 ‘If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words…’
    Ezekiel 20:19-20 ‘I am the Lord your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; 20 hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.’



Sh'lach Lecha
Numbers 13:1-15:41
Joshua 2:1-24
Hebrews 3:7-9

     This Torah portion tells of the twelve men sent by Moshe to scout the land and the consequences of the ten that brought back the negative report. The name of this parsha, Sh’lach Lecha, is an interesting use of words in view of what is to come. All though God tells Moses to send, literally ‘send for yourself’, God had already promised as far back as the beginning that His people would be going to a land flowing with milk and honey. But we later learn in the account of Devarim that the twelve spies were being sent at the people’s insistence, not that of God. Their doubt far outweighed their faith.
     The negative report states that the people were giants and ‘we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves and so we must have looked to them’. This is an interesting statement as these men could not have known how appeared to the people of that land. It was pure nonsense and exaggeration to assume they appeared as grasshoppers to the people of the land.   
     Only much later, in the book of Joshua, when Joshua himself sent spies, did they learn from the woman who sheltered them, Rahab, what actually happened when the inhabitants of the land heard that the Israelites were coming: Joshua 2:8-11 ‘Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.’ 
     The bad report brought back by the ten, caused the people to challenge, once again, the leadership of Moshe and Aaron, thus ending tragically as God destroyed the ten scouts who incited the community, sparing only Caleb and Joshua for only those two gave a positive report.
     The sages teach that this sin of the negative report and that of the Golden Calf are regarded as the most serious of the sins that Israel committed between the relationship of God and the Israelites. It is no accident that the Golden Calf was said to have been made on 17th Tammuz, and the spies’ report is linked with Tisha B’Av. The golden calf was the sin of idolatry, but what about the report of the spies? In Numbers 13:31, they said: ‘We cannot attack that people for it is stronger than we, (Hebrew word mimenu). The traditional understanding is that ‘mimenu’ refers to the Israelites, and that their strength means the land cannot be conquered, but Rashi suggests that they meant God and them.  That explains the depth of the sin; that the Israelites doubted God’s powers and His promise. That is why this negative report was regarded as so destructive.
     We don’t live because of our faith, for our faith can waiver as life’s challengers ensue us.  But the faithfulness of God is the power that He gives us, that causes us to truly live. Romans 3:3: ‘What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?’
     James 1:6 ‘But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.’
     This parsha ends with grain and drink offerings, the law for the unintentional sin, the law for the presumptuous sin, violating the Shabbat and tzitzits. 
     Presumptuous was the sin of the ten spies as they spread fear, doubt and lack of courage. Not only did they doubt God and His very word, but they spread misinformation regarding the other people that caused dissention in the camp.  They brought Adonai into a common format, basically leveling God even with man.  Some synonyms of presumptuous are brazen, arrogant, egotistical, and insolent.  It might seem that the ten spies that brought back the negative report were strictly laden with fear. However, it was an act of arrogance for them to put their weakness above the strength of God, thus implying that their fear and lack of faith was stronger than the power of Adonai.  How arrogant!
     This parsha ends with the law for the tassels.  Numbers 15:37- 41 ‘Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. 41 am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”
     It is taught that the blue thread in the tzitzit, is there to remind us of the sea, the sky, and God’s throne of glory. Techelet, the blue itself, was in the ancient world the mark of royalty. Thus, the tzitzit as itself is a form of edification, lifting us up, saying: “Do not be afraid. God is with you. And do not give way to your emotions, because you are royalty: you are children of the King.”