1. On Shabbos, the entire Torah reading of the week is read, thus fusing each of the separate elements of the Torah reading into a single whole. The Shabbos day includes within it all the days of the previous week, and thus, the Shabbos reading is also all-inclusive in nature. Although each of the different readings contains an individual message, their being read together as a single Parsha the endows them with a point of general significance. Furthermore, in a larger sense, they share a point of connection, not only to the entire Torah reading, but to the Torah as a whole, for the entire Torah is a single indivisible entity.
In particular, this concept is relevant to Parshas Shelach,where it is obvious how all the different elements of the Torah reading are interrelated. The majority of the Torah reading is concerned with the mission of the spies and the reaction of the Jewish people on their return. Even the subsequent passages, for example, the passage concerning the wine libations and the passage concerning the separation of Challah were mentioned, directly after G‑d told Moshe that the Jews would remain in the desert for forty years, so that the people would be reassured that ultimately, they would enter Eretz Yisrael.
Similarly, the concluding passage1 mentions the mitzvah of tzitzis, a mitzvah of all-encompassing significance which reminds one of the totality of the 613 mitzvos.This further indicates the connection shared between one passage from the Torah and the Torah as a whole.
It is necessary to understand, however, why this concept — how each passage of the Torah is connected to the Torah as a whole — is expressed by Parshas Shelach.What is the connection between this concept andParshas Shelach? Similarly, it is necessary to understand why the connection between Parshas Shelach and the time of the year when this parshah is read, the conclusion of the month of Sivan.
These concepts can be understand through an analysis of the story of the spies and, more particularly, through contrasting the narrative of the spies sent by Moshe and the narrative of the spies sent by Yehoshua which is mentioned in the Haftorah. Among the differences between these two narratives are: a) There was no direct command for Moshe to send spies. Rather, G‑d left the matter up to Moshe’s discretion as Rashicomments on the word לדעתך in the opening verse of the Torah portion. In contrast, Yehoshua was explicitly commanded to send spies. This is obvious; after the disastrous results of the mission of the spies sent by Moshe, he surely would not have sent spies unless commanded to do so by G‑d. b) In regard to the spies sent by Moshe, the Torah uses the expressions “men” and “explore.” In contrast, in regard to the spies sent by Yehoshua, “spies” and “search out,” expressions which reflect more clandestine activities, are used. c) Moshe sent twelve spies and Yehoshua sent only two. d) In regard to the spies sent by Moshe, the Torah mentions the names of the spies and specifically states that they were the leaders of the people. In contrast, the identity of the spies sent by Yehoshua is not mentioned in the narrative. e) The spies sent by Moshe were sent openly; the entire Jewish people knew of their mission. Furthermore, there was no attempt to hide their mission from the gentiles. On the contrary, rather than dividingEretz Yisrael among all of them, each one exploring a portion, they traveled as a group, in a manner which their presence could be noticed by anyone.2 In contrast, Yehoshua “secretly sent spies,” hiding the matter from the Jewish people and surely, from the Canaanites. f) The spies sent by Moshe traversed Eretz Yisrael in its entirety. In contrast, the spies sent by Yehoshua were instructed to “see the land and Jericho,” (i.e., at the outset, their mission had a more limited scope). Furthermore, in actuality, they merely went to Rachav’s house, fled to the hills for three days, and then returned to Yehoshua. Thus, they did not explore the land as a whole, and did not even explore Jericho in its totality.
The differences between the nature of the missions of the spies sent by Moshe and those sent by Yehoshua revolve around the differences in the purpose of these missions. To explain: In general, two reasons are offered for the sending spies by the Jews: a) to prepare for conquest of Eretz Yisrael, to discover its roads and fortifications so that it would be easier to plan an attack. b) To investigate the nature of the land, to inform the people of its positive qualities so that they will be eager to settle within it.
Moshe sent the spies primarily for the second purpose. He was confident that the conquest of Eretz Yisraelwould be accomplished in a miraculous manner. He did, however, desire that they explore the land in order to tell the people of its positive qualities. In contrast, in the time of Yehoshua, this was no longer necessary — for the spies sent by Moshe had already accomplished this objective. It was, however, necessary to prepare for the conquest of the land, since in Yehoshua’s time, the conquest would require actual war, and for this purpose, he sent spies to Jericho.
To explain this idea: The Jewish people asked Moshe to send spies in order to “search out the land,” i.e., to investigate how the land should be conquered. Moshe, however, did not consider that purpose significant, as he told the people, “G‑d, your L‑rd, proceeds before you. He will fight for you.” Nor was there a need to explore the roads, because the pillar of cloud led the Jewish people during the day, and the pillar of fire led them at night.
Why did he send the spies? “To explore the land…. so that they shall see what kind of land it is… Whether it is good… whether it is rich…” And therefore, he told them to bring back some of the fruit of the land, so the Jewish people would all be able to behold actual proof of the land’s positive qualities.3
In contrast, Yehoshua did not send spies for this purpose, for this intent had already been achieved by the spies sent by Moshe. In this instance, the spies were sent for the purpose of preparing for the conquest of the land. Yehoshua realized that the conquest which he would lead would not be accompanied by the miracles that would have characterized Moshe’s conquest of the land. Therefore, he felt the need for spies to investigate the nature of the defenses of the land he was setting out to conquer.
Based on these general principles, we can explain the other particular differences between the mission of the spies sent by Moshe and those sent by Yehoshua. As mentioned, there was no Divine command to send spies, for from G‑d’s perspective, there was no need for such a mission. The land would be conquered in a miraculous manner and He had already assured the people that it was a good and prosperous land.
The Jewish people, however, felt the need to send spies, and Moshe agreed since, as Rashi states in ParshasDevarim, he hoped that once he agreed wholeheartedly to their request, they would feel that he was not hiding anything from them, and would therefore, withdraw the request.
When this did not happen, Moshe presented the request to G‑d, asking whether spies should be sent to explore the land — i.e., not to search out the easiest way of conquest, but to bring back a report which would encourage the people to desire to conquer it as explained above. G‑d replied that this was leftl’datechoh, to Moshe’s own discretion. G‑d did not oppose such a mission, nor did He see a real need for it. Moshe, however, as the shepherd of the Jewish people, saw the need for the people to be encouraged and therefore, consented to send the spies.
For this reason, he sent twelve spies, one for each tribe, and chose a leader of that tribe. His intent was for the spies to explore the entire land of Eretz Yisrael and to see that there was a portion appropriate for each tribe. Therefore, he sent a leader of the tribe, an individual who knew the needs of his tribe, and could tell them upon his return that there was a portion of Eretz Yisraelappropriate for them.
And it was with this intent that the spies traveled together as a group throughout Eretz Yisrael. Since the land had not been divided into tribal portions as of yet, it was impossible to send each of the spies to explore the portion to be given to his tribe. Rather, it was necessary for them all to see the entire land, and to appreciate how the land as a whole was suitable for their tribe.
This also explains why their mission was not secret. Needless to say, it was made known to the Jews, for its entire purpose was to encourage them to desire to enterEretz Yisrael. Furthermore, it was not hidden from the Canaanites. Since it was not directed at military objectives, the spies had no reason to obscure their identity and mingle among the local people to discover whether they were afraid of the Jews or not. Similarly, they were confident that just as the conquest of Eretz Yisrael would be carried out in a miraculous manner, so too, they would be able to carry out their mission in a miraculous manner without having to be concerned with the danger of apprehension.
Yehoshua’s sending of spies, in contrast, had a clear military objective, to discover the most practical way to conquer Jericho. For this reason, he sent the spies secretly, sending two and not twelve (for thus they could hide easier). Needless to say, the mission was not publicized to the Canaanites, and even to the Jewish people, it was not made known (lest word of it leak outside).
Nor was it necessary to send the leaders of the people. Since the intent was not to convince the people at large of the land’s favorable qualities, there was no purpose in choosing leaders. (Indeed, doing so would make the mission public knowledge.) Rather, it was preferable to send individuals with military knowledge.
This also explains why the spies returned to Yehoshua without making a thorough investigation of Jericho. After Rachav told them that “the fear of you has fallen upon us. All the inhabitants of the land have melted with terror because of you… there is no courage remaining in any man,” they did not need to make any further explorations. They knew that the land could be conquered.
The above explanation also clarifies another problematic point regarding the mission of the spies sent by Moshe. Since the spies were the leaders of the Jewish people and unique individuals selected by Moshe himself. How is it possible that their mission led to such disastrous results?4
Based on the above, however, it can be explained that the spies’ mission did, in fact, accomplish its purpose. They came back and told the people that Eretz Yisraelwas a land of milk and honey and brought samples of the fine fruit that it produced. Thus the Jews knew from actual experience the positive qualities possessed by the land, and afterwards — albeit unfortunately, very many years afterwards — this knowledge allowed them to enter Eretz Yisrael with happiness and joy.
Furthermore, even immediately, in a spiritual sense, there was a positive dimension to their journey for the fact that Jews on a high spiritual level traveled throughEretz Yisrael was the first stage of the ultimate conquest of Eretz Yisrael.5 Thus their mission was part of the service of elevating the lower aspects of our material world.6
The mission of the spies sent by Moshe also teaches us another lesson. A spy was sent from each tribe, because each tribe has a unique approach to the service of G‑d. For example, the service of the tribe of Yissacharcentered on Torah study and that of Zevulun, on commercial activity the proceeds of which were used for tzedakah. Similarly, each other tribe had a path of service unique for it. In a correspondent manner, Eretz Yisrael is divided into twelve portions, one for each of the tribes, for the refinement of that portion of land is intrinsically related to the service of that particular tribe.7
Accordingly, it would seem more appropriate for each of the leaders to have investigated the portion of Eretz Yisrael8 appropriate for his particular tribe,9 and yet, we find that the opposite was true. All twelve spies traversed the entire land together. This emphasizes how the individual service of every Jew is interconnected with that of our people as a whole, for — as an expression of the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael — one Jew helps another carry out his service. Furthermore, through the collective efforts of the entire Jewish people (as represented by their leaders), the refinement of the world is carried out in a more complete and more elevated manner.
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2. Based on the above, we can understand the connection between Parshas Shelach and the month of Sivan, the month associated with the giving of the Torah. As mentioned, Parshas Shelach is always read towards the conclusion of the month of Sivan, and furthermore, the spies themselves began their journey on the 29th of Sivan.
The connection between the two revolves around the concept explained above, that the spies’ journey was a phase in the elevation and the refinement of the world. The refinement of the world is accomplished through the power of the Torah. Thus, the conclusion of the month of the giving of the Torah represents the extension of the Torah into the world at large and the refinement of the world that results from this activity.
The Torah is connected with the Jewish people as reflected in the fact that the name Yisrael is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah.” Each Jewish soul has its letter in the Torah which serves as the source for its life-energy and vitality.
There are two laws concerning a Torah scroll that have significant parallels in our service of G‑d: a) Each letter in a Torah scroll must be surrounded by parchment and, b) a Torah scroll is incomplete unless it contains every single letter. From this, we can infer that each Jew has a service which is unique and specific to his particular soul, separate from that of other Jews. And, also, that the service of one Jew is incomplete until he joins together with the entire Jewish people. Similarly, there are two levels of refinement to be accomplished by the Jewish people: one that is the responsibility of each particular individual, and one to be accomplished by the people as a whole.
To explain: The concepts of oneness and division are intrinsic to the Torah and its mitzvos. The Torah is one, for it is G‑d’s wisdom and “He and His wisdom are one.” In contrast, there are 613 mitzvos. Since the mitzvos are G‑d’s directives for man’s conduct in the world at large, just as the world at large has 613 dimensions,10 so too, there are 613 different mitzvos.
More particularly, the contrast between oneness and division is reflected in the difference between Pnimiyus HaTorah (Torah’s mystic dimension) and Nigleh (the revealed teachings of Torah law). Nigleh is concerned with the refinement of the world, defining what is kosherand what is not, what is pure and what is impure. Accordingly, like the world, it is characterized by division, including the very basic division into sixty different tractates. In contrast, Pnimiyus HaTorahconcerns itself with G‑d, “Know the G‑d of your father.” Hence, just as G‑d is one, this Torah discipline is characterized by oneness.
The above is also reflected within the Jewish people. From the perspective of the soul, all the Jews are united. What divides them? Their bodies, in which their souls are enclothed to carry out the service of refining the world at large. More particularly, the conscious powers of the soul (intellect and emotion) are characterized by division, and it is the essence of the soul (the revelation of which is through the service of bittul) which reflects oneness.
The journey of the spies teaches us that our efforts to refine the world do not relate only to those aspects of the Jews and the Torah which are characterized by division, but also relate to the transcendental levels that reflect G‑d’s fundamental oneness.
In particular, it can be explained that these two approaches to the service of refinement, an approach that focuses on particular divisions and an approach which is characterized by oneness, reflect the difference between the mission of the spies sent by Moshe and those sent by Yehoshua. Moshe sent twelve spies, one for each of the services which characterize the Jewish people, and he charged them with exploring the entire land, i.e., all of its different particulars.11
In contrast, the mission of the spies sent by Yehoshua was characterized by oneness. Therefore, he sent spies only to Jericho, “the padlock of Eretz Yisrael,” i.e., a city which in essence included the entire country and thus relates to the approach of oneness.
Similarly, these spies were sent in response to G‑d’s command, i.e., as an expression of the quality of bittulwhich brings into revelation the essence of the soul, the quality present in all Jews without distinction. The dimension of oneness associated with this mission is also reflected by each of the terms used by the verse, “two men [to] spy in secret.”
“Two,” in contrast to twelve, reflects the two fundamental thrusts — positive activity and the negation of undesirable influences — which include the totality of our service. “Men,” as opposed to leaders, indicate an emphasis, not on the greatness of the qualities possessed by the individual, but rather on the essential qualities common to all men.
“[To] spy in secret” reveals a modest approach to the service of G‑d characteristic of the quality of bittul. One does not seek personal aggrandizement or publicity.
3. The above concepts receive further emphasis in terms of our Sages’ explanation that the two spies sent by Yehoshua were Caleb and Pinchas. Why Yehoshua sent Caleb is understandable. He was the only one of the spies (other than Yehoshua himself) sent by Moshe who accomplished his mission successfully. Why, however, was Pinchas chosen? As mentioned above, Yehoshua sent these spies to prepare for the conquest of Eretz Yisrael and the Levites (Pinchas’ tribe) were to take no part in this war of conquest.
This question can be resolved within the context of our Sages’ statement that, in the Era of the Redemption,Eretz Yisrael will be divided into thirteen portions, a portion to be set aside for each of the tribes, including the tribe of Levi.
In the present era, the tribe of Levi did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael or a portion in the spoils of war, because — as the Rambam writes — the Levites:
Were set aside to serve G‑d, to worship Him, and to instruct others in His straight paths and righteous judgments…. Therefore, they were separated from the ways of the world and do not wage war as the other Jews do, nor do they receive an inheritance…. Rather, they are G‑d’s legion, and He, blessed be He, provides for them.
This applies in the present era, when the material nature of the world prevents a person from being both totally dedicated to G‑d and simultaneously involved with worldly affairs. In the Era of the Redemption, however, when the world will be refined and “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters fill up the ocean bed,” there will be no need for the Levites to set themselves aside from worldly involvement. And hence, they too will receive a portion of Eretz Yisrael.
It can be explained that the division of Eretz Yisrael into thirteen portions is associated with the transcendent oneness which will permeate the world in the Era of the Redemption for אחד (“one”) is numerically equivalent to thirteen. This will also be reflected by the fact that G‑d Himself will be the One who divides the land in the Era of the Redemption.12
At present, the refinement of the world relates to those levels of G‑dliness which reflect the division within the world at large. In the Era of the Redemption, in contrast, we will merit the revelation of the levels of G‑dliness which transcend the divisions of the world and reflect His oneness.
This universal oneness also relates to the tribe of Levi, for that tribe possesses a general quality relating to the entire Jewish people as the Rambam writes:
Not only the tribe of Levi, but each and every man who is motivated by the generosity of his spirit to stand before G‑d and serve Him… is sanctified as holy of holies. G‑d will be his lot and inheritance forever… as for the Priests and Levites.
As a foretaste, and in preparation for, the conquest ofEretz Yisrael in the Era of the Redemption, and to emphasize the quality of oneness, Yehoshua sent Pinchas as one of his two spies.
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4. The above concepts also share a connection to the concluding passage of Parshas Shelach, the passage which deals with the mitzvah of tzitzis. Tzitzis is amitzvah of general significance as reflected by our Sages’ statement that it is “equivalent to all the mitzvos”and the verse “and you shall see it and remember all themitzvos of G‑d.” On the surface, this is problematic; as mentioned above, mitzvos are the medium G‑d has granted us to relate to the particular elements of this world, and therefore, they are characterized by difference. If so, how can there be a mitzvah which is all-inclusive in nature?
The answer is that this in fact is the nature of all themitzvos. The inner dimension of all the mitzvos is that they are the Torah’s commands and thus, they all convey and communicate G‑d’s Oneness. Of all themitzvos, this is openly revealed in the mitzvah of tzitzisfor the numerical equivalent of the word, together with its physical form, eight strands and five knots, reflect a connection to all 613 mitzvos.
The mitzvah of tzitzis allows this oneness to be reflected in the observance of all the mitzvos, causing even those mitzvos which reflect the division and difference prevalent in the world at large to be characterized by a spirit of oneness. This is alluded to in the expression mentioned in the passage concerningtzitzis, “so that you remember and fulfill all of Mymitzvos,” i.e., this mitzvah makes one conscious that all the mitzvos are G‑d’s mitzvos, united with Him. Thustzitzis shares a connection to the mission of the spies whose journey was characterized by oneness as explained above.
The reading of this portion should inspire us to greater activities in the sphere of ahavas Yisrael, first and foremost, thinking about how to fulfill both the material and spiritual needs of our fellow Jews.13
This should also be expressed by activities which emphasize oneness among Jews in both of the two fundamental categories which characterize the service of the Jewish people, Yissachar — those individuals who devote themselves to Torah study — and Zevulun — those involved in worldly affairs. In regard to Yissachar, the Rambam writes that it is a mitzvah for a Torah sage to “teach all the students,” i.e., to extend his teachings to as many students as possible. Similarly, in regard to Zevulun, it is possible to give a donation to tzedakah on behalf of someone else and there are some rich people — may their number increase — who give donations on behalf of each member of the Jewish people.
Within the context of activities which emphasize the unity of the Jewish people, it is also worthy to mention the campaign to study the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah.This campaign unites many Jews throughout the world in the study of a single text. Similarly, in this vein, it is important to mention the spreading of the teachings ofChassidus outward. These teachings unite the inner dimensions of the Jews with the inner dimensions of the Torah, and thus, with the inner dimensions of G‑d. And it is the spreading of these teachings which will hasten the advent of the era in which “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover up the ocean bed.”
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5. The Haftorah concludes with the verse, “G‑d gave the entire land into our hands and all the inhabitants of the land have melted [in fear] of us.” This verse should serve as a directive for us at present. We should not return to the gentiles one inch of those portions of Eretz Yisraelwhich G‑d has given us. And this resolve to maintain full possession of Eretz Yisrael will lead us to the era when the size of Eretz Yisrael will be increased and it will encompass the lands of 10 nations. Then it will be divided into thirteen portions, the tribe of Levi also receiving a share as mentioned above. And we will proceed to the Beis HaMikdash and offer the Thanksgiving sacrifice in thanks for our redemption from exile. May this be in the immediate future
The Torah mentions that Moshe charged the spies to see “Are the people who live there strong or weak?… Are the cities where they live open or fortified?” This seems to indicate that his intent was also to prepare for the conquest of the land. From a deeper perspective, however, these questions can also be interpreted as referring to the investigation of the nature of the land. Our Sages teach that the nature of the inhabitants of the land is dependent on the land itself, “There is a land which produces mighty people and a land which produces weak people.” Thus when asking the spies to investigate whether the people of the land where mighty or not, Moshe was in fact asking them to explore the nature of the land.
Similarly, as Rashi explains, the question whether the people lived in fortified cities or not was also directed at discovering whether they were mighty or weak. If they were strong, they would not need fortified cities. Thus, this question also was intended to reveal the properties of the land itself.
In Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe explains that, indeed, the spies’ unwillingness to enter Eretz Yisrael stemmed from their elevated spiritual level. “They were on a very elevated level and did not desire to lower themselves to carry out the mitzvos on the plane of deed…. Rather, they desired to remain in the desert” where they were involved with Torah study without any connection to worldly affairs.
It is related that “the spies do not have a portion in the World to Come.” This is also given a positive interpretation. Their level was so high that the World to Come could not serve as an appropriate reward for them.
When discussing the spiritual level of the spies, Rashi uses the expression, “At that time, they were kosher.” He does not use the term “righteous” for the word kosher contains an allusion which teaches us an important lesson.
Kosher (כשר) is an acronym for the Hebrew words כמוצא שלל רב (“As one who finds great spoil”). The elevation of the lower realms brought about by the spies’ mission was “great spoil” taken from the domain of the forces of evil, for it is through the transformation of the darkness of this world that the highest levels of G‑dly light are revealed.