This article is dedicated to all fathers in honor of Father's DayPrint All Shelach Articles
The name of a parsha symbolizes and encapsulates the central theme of the parsha. This week's parsha is traditionally called "Shelach." We have a rule, that "Tradition of Israel is Torah." Meaning, that the traditions of Israel have the weight of Torah, and sometimes it is taken into consideration when making a Torah ruling. So the name of our parsha, Shelach, is Torah and we must take a lesson from it.
What is the lesson we are meant to learn from the name Shelach? And how does this name encapsulate the theme of our parsha?
The word Shelach, means to send, it is the beginning of the story of the spies who were sent by Moshe, to spy out the land. It seems to be a story about what happened. How can it be symbolic of the parsha? Especially when the parsha ends with the mitzvah of tzitzis, which is symbolic of all of the mitzvahs, as it says, "And you will see it (the tzitzis) and you will remember all the mitzvahs of Hashem." How can a story of the past, be connected and symbolic of all of the mitzvahs that we are obligated to do forever? In other words, what is the eternal lesson from this story, that must be applied to every mitzvah?
Another question. The story of the spies begins, "And Hashem spoke to Moshe to say (laimor). Send for yourself..." And Rashi explains, "If you think so. I am not commanding you, if you want to - send." In other words, this statement, "Send for yourself," is only to Moshe. When it says laimor, it usually means that Moshe should say it to the Jewish people. What is the message here for all of the Jewish people?
To understand this, first we have to understand, what was the sin of the spies? Moshe told them to inspect the land, when they returned, they reported on what they saw. So what was their sin?
Moshe sent them to figure out which would be the best way to conquer the land. He didn't have a question whether or not they would conquer it. Hashem said that He would give us the land, so it was a sure thing. But there is a rule that we try not to rely on miracles, or at least, try to do things in a natural way, with the least amount of miracles possible. The spies were to scout the best route to capture the land, with the least amount of miracles necessary. However, when they gave their report, they came to the conclusion, that "We can't go up to the nation, because it is stronger than us." That was the sin, Hashem clearly said that He is giving us the land, they were sent to find the best way, but they said and came to the conclusion, that we can't conquer it. It was not a question whether or not we would conquer it, but how we would conquer it.
This is the first lesson from Shlach, with regard to every mitzvah. We have to realize that it is Hashem Who gave us the mitzvahs, that means that there isn't a question if we can do them, we only have to "spy out" or figure out the best way to do them.
You may ask, what about a person like me, who is paralyzed and locked in a body that is unable to do mitzvahs? Or, what about a person who is held captive, like in the Russian gulags of past, unable to do mitzvahs, because they were not allowed to have the things necessary to do the mitzvahs? In those cases, even with total self sacrifice, one would be unable to do mitzvahs.
In that case, Hashem clearly doesn't want him to do the mitzvah. It is like a mitzvah that can only be done by a woman, like counting the days before mikva, it is not applicable to men. And the mitzvah of circumcision, that is not applicable to women. The same is true for a person who is in one of the aforementioned situations. The mitzvahs that he can't do, are not applicable to him.
The Torah speaks about normal circumstances, and in normal circumstances, a Jew has to see himself as able, he shouldn't convince himself otherwise.
The second lesson here that applies to every mitzvah, is that aside for the specific intent that we should have with every mitzvah, we should also have in mind when we perform it, that we are doing it, because it's what Hashem wants. And that is what we say in the blessing before mitzvahs, "That He sanctified us with His commandments, and He commanded us..."
Now we can understand why the parsha that has the mitzvah of tzitzis, which is symbolic of all of the mitzvahs, is called Shelach. Because the message of Shelach, pertains and is a prerequisite for every mitzvah.
Shelach, is Moshe sending the spies in preparation of entering the Holy Land. The idea of the Holy Land, is that the physical place is infused with holiness. And that is what happens when we do a mitzvah, we infuse the physical object that is used in the performance of the mitzvah, with holiness. In a way, we are making a bunch of little Israels, we are making the physical holy.
This is said specifically to Moshe, because we each have a little bit of Moshe inside of us, and it is this little bit of Moshe, that gives us the strength to accomplish the fusion of mundane and holy, the G-dly and the physical, heaven and earth.
This is perhaps what laimor means here. The message of Shelach pertains to each and every one of us, therefore, it should be conveyed to the Jewish people. And it is this message of Shelach, that is the theme of our parsha.
However, we are left with a question. If the message of Shelach is so important and fundamental to all of our mitzvahs, why did Hashem make it dependant on the person's choice, as it says, "Send for yourself," meaning, "If you think so. I am not commanding you, if you want to - send?" Why didn't He make it a required prerequisite?
The whole point of our Torah and mitzvahs is to draw G-dliness into the physical, as the Midrash explains the unique thing that was changed with the giving of the Torah, is that now, "Above can descend below, and below can ascend above."
Above descending below is understood as Hashem being drawn into creation. But how does below ascend above?
The norm is, that Hashem is the giver and we are the receiver. We receive our whole existence from Him, and if he would stop giving, if He would stop creating us, we would cease to exist.
For us to ascend above, would mean, that we too, so to speak, become givers like Hashem. Like our sages say, "We become Hashem's partner in creation." And like the Talmud tells about a famous debate between the sages, that a voice came from heaven saying that rabbi Eliezer was right, and the sages responded, "Torah is not in the heavens." Hashem then said, "My children were victorious over Me, My children were victorious over Me." Meaning that we are in the"above" position, we have the power to affect and give to Torah.
The words "My children were victorious over Me," shows the partnership between Hashem and the Jewish people, because in a real partnership, sometimes one partner's opinion wins, and at times, the other partner's opinion wins.
To accomplish that we should be in the "above" position, that we will be able to give to creation, Hashem made it our choice. Because if He would have made the message of Shelach an obligation, then by definition, we would be in the receiving position, and not in the above position. Because we would be doing His commandment, making us the receivers, and there is no way of getting out of that position.
By making it our choice, Hashem put us in the above position. And being that the message of Shelach, is for all mitzvahs, we have the ability to affect every mitzvah and all of creation. We ascend above.
May we merit to be the partners Hashem wants, and effect the world to the point that it becomes a true home for Him. This will usher in the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.