Parashat Shlach Lecha – Erev Shabbat 17 June 2022 (5782)
Week of 12-18 June 2022.
Torah portion: Num.13:1-15:41 Haftarah: Josh. 2:1-24
In Parashat Shlach Lecha we read the story of Moses sending out spies to explore the Promised Land in order to know the best way to conquer it. Moses sends twelve spies, but when they return, ten are against going back: the land is good, but the people are giants and their cities impregnable. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, are in favor, but their confidence is ignored and the people, fearful and demoralized, say, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt” (Num. 14:4). God, angry, threatens to destroy the people and start over with Moses. Moses intercedes and manages to avoid this fate, but God insists that the people will be punished and they will have to spend forty years in the desert. Their children, not they, will enter the land.
A curiosity that cannot go unnoticed is that before sending the twelve, Moses adds the Hebrew letter Yud (י ) in the name of Hosea who becomes Joshua. This letter is the first letter of the Name of God; it is not a simple change, but the intention is to remember that God was with the group. Every time they spoke the name of Joshua, the group would remember the presence of God in their midst. But why then was the majority against it? The generation that was there was a generation that had been enslaved in Egypt, that had experienced the fear and terror of tyranny; they lacked confidence in themselves and especially in God’s plan. Trust requires faith. Faith in looking at the desert and believing that there is a place where there are “milk and honey”; faith is the surety that the only God is the God of the impossible.
About forty years later, now Joshua, sends in new spies and they return excited and happy, confident that it was possible to defeat the enemy. What has changed? The Earth was the same, but the people were different. When we are aware that God is always on our side, there is nothing to fear.
The ten spies, who returned beyond distrust, slandered the Promised Land and died. Through lack of trust, they incited others not to trust in God’s plans either. How many times are we not, through lack of faith, blaspheming God and inciting others to also abandon faith in the liberating God? Following God requires total trust. When people ask me what that trust should be like, I always remember the story of the child at the top of the tree who sees the father with his arms outstretched asking him to jump, the child jumps without hesitation, because he trusts the father.
That is why every Jew should always remember the prayer of the Shema (Deut. 16:3) and at the end of Parashat Shlach Lecha we see the precept of the Tsitzit (fringes) a sign that they should always remember the commandments of the Torah. When a Jew puts on the Tsitzit, he is considered to have fulfilled all the commandments of the Torah. But everyone who shares faith in the one God must always have before them the certainty that God is one, so that we can avoid evil and get away from the path of everything that enslaves us.
Trusting is a daily exercise: often with everyday tasks we act and pray automatically, without the true intention in our hearts, we remember God when we are afflicted by pain, problems and worries. May we be more grateful for what we have and complain less about what we don’t have, may our confidence be like that of a child who jumps and smiles, and that when we jump our smile is visible to everyone, so that when they see us, they know that the God of Israel, can do everything because every day He tells us: “Shlach Lecha” (“I sent you”), to be a witness of my wonders.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Am I able to put all my trust in God or am I one of the ten who came back without trusting? Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, NDS, Israel, ISPS-Ratisbonne Secretary