(This Torah Teaching is for Shabbat of June 20th, 2020)
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Sh’lah L’kha (שְׁלַח-לְךָ) — Hebrew for “send”, “send to you”, or “send for yourself”) is the 37th weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual cycle of Torah reading and the fourth in the Book of Numbers covering Numbers 13:1–15:41. Its name comes from the first distinctive words in the parashah, in Numbers 13:2. The parasha tells the story of the twelve spies sent to assess the promised land, Caleb, who proposed entry into the land and the others who discouraged the Israelites, commandments about offerings, the story of the Sabbath violator, and the commandment of the fringes (צִיצִת, tzitzit).
Parsha Sh’lach Summary
Moses sends twelve spies to the land of Canaan. Forty days later they return, carrying a huge cluster of grapes, a pomegranate and a fig, to report on a lush and bountiful land. But ten of the spies warn that the inhabitants of the land are giants and warriors “more powerful than we”; only Caleb and Joshua insist that the land can be conquered, as God has commanded.
The people weep that they’d rather return to Egypt. God decrees that Israel’s entry into the Land shall be delayed forty years, during which time that entire generation will die out in the desert. A group of remorseful Jews storm the mountain on the border of the Land, and are routed by the Amalekites and Canaanites.
The laws of the menachot (meal, wine and oil offerings) are given, as well as the mitzvah to consecrate a portion of the dough (challah) to God when making bread. A man violates the Shabbat by gathering sticks, and is put to death. God instructs to place fringes (tzitzit) on the four corners of our garments, so that we should remember to fulfill the mitzvot (divine commandments). For more on the study of tzitzit and how they are applicable for us today please click here.
– Joshua 2:1-24
This week’s haftorah tells the story of the spies that Joshua sent to scout the city of Jericho, prior to the Israelites‘ invasion of the Holy Land, a point in common with this week’s Torah reading, which discusses the twelve spies that were sent by Moses years earlier to explore the Holy Land.
Joshua sent two spies to Jericho, where they lodged at an inn located in the city’s walls, operated by a woman named Rahab. Their presence was quickly discovered by the king who sent for Rahab and asked her to turn in her guests. Rahab responded that her guests had already left the city — when actually she had hidden them on her rooftop.
“And she said to the men, I know that God has given you the land, and that your terror has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away because of you. For we have heard how God 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 that were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you completely destroyed.”
At Rahab’s request, the two spies assured her that she and her family would not be harmed during the conquer of Jericho–provided that she would tie a scarlet thread and hang it from her window. This would be a symbol that this home is a safe haven. Rahab helped the men escape via a rope she lowered from her window and told them how to hide from possible pursuers. The spies escaped safely and returned to report to Joshua.
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2020 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.