This week’s parsha announcement is an edited version of a post that appeared last year on Globe Tribune.Info.
This week, Parshat Shelach, candle lighting in Brooklyn is at 8:10 PM. Candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset, which is when Shabbat actually begins.Chabad.org has a section of their web site where you can look up the time for candle lighting in your locality, as well as the time on Saturday night when Shabbat ends. From that point on the web site, it is easy to find articles that can be printed before Shabbat and read during Shabbat, when it is customary to refrain from using computers, cars and other such devices.
During the 70 years of communism in the former Soviet Union, Judaism survived underground. When communism fell, there was a great deal of work needed to provide opportunities for Jewish knowledge and observance to the many Jews who had suffered from a spiritual drought under communist rule. This week , Chabad.org has an article about Rabbi Zev Vagner, who grew up in the former Soviet Union and devoted his life to strengthening Judaism in that region in the aftermath of the collapse of communist rule.
Aish.com also has an article by a former guest on the Oprah Winfrey program who needed to say Kaddish prior to being on her show. no effort was spared to enable the man to say Kaddish for his father.
Aish.com also has very good articles that can similarly be printed out. One article on Aish by Rabbi Shraga Simmons deals with staged, faked and photo shopped photos depicting Israeli “aggression” against Arabs. The mainstream media should be diligent in publicising such instances of deceit and manipulation. Unfortunately, it seems that many news outlets are suspiciously forgiving of fraud that is perpetrated in defense of the editorial positions that they already hold.
A major distinguishing feature of this week’s parsha is the story of the twelve spies who were sent to scout out the land of Israel. Then of them came back with reports that were negative . Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, came back with glowing reports. The spies who spoke badly of the land of Israel were punished, along with the people who believed them.
Why were the Jews punished when they were sent to check out the land of Israel. They formed an opinion, they gave it and then they were punished. It seems terribly unfair.
The best explanation I heard for this is that the Holy Land was promised by G-d to the Jewish people. The G-d who split the Red Sea and led the Jews out of Egypt with miracles should certainly be trusted in the matter of opening up the land of Israel to the Jews. Any scouting expedition should not have focused on if the Jewish people should go to the Holy Land but how it was to be done. The instruction to send spies was not a command, but an option given to the Jewish people, along the lines of “Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.”
In a corporate setting, when the boss gives an order, there is a distinction between questioning the order and questioning how it should be carried out. In this context, G-d’s harsh response to the objections of 10 out of the 12 spies becomes readily more understandable.
In the literal reading of the story of the spies, they come across as lacking in faith. A closer look reveals that the spies may have had some spiritual motives.
The time in the desert was a time when the Jewish people were sustained directly by G-d. To many, it seemed like a descent when farming, growing livestock and deriving sustenance by natural means became necessary. Some people felt saddened by what they felt was an increasing distance in their relationship with G-d as they came “down to earth” and dealt with farming, trade,political and military matters. Although war, business and politics can be noble endeavours, they contain many moral pitfalls.
The Torah is not written for angels. It has instructions for unpleasant things like war,divorce and for punishing criminals. Although the Torah was given to elevate physical creation, it starts where people are and works up from there.
This generation is thousands of years removed from the departure from Egypt. When the Jews in the time of Moshe expressed doubt, it was after having recently seen incredible miracles. The doubt that is commonplace in our time is in the context of an exile that has dragged on for over 2000 years. May G-d grant that our generation see miracles as did the generation of the Exodus.